Director: Agung Sentausa
Year: 2006
Rating: 7.5
Country: Indonesia

Rock films are still happening – not so much in the United States anymore but in fascinating locations like Indonesia. Garasi translates into garage - where so much of the great rock and roll music began – some kids forming a band for the pure love of music and practicing in their parent’s garage till their fingers bleed. This follows the traditional and often used story line from the formation of a band to their coming out party. Within that basic framework though, the film works in some sweet coming of age moments, a little critical social commentary and of course lots of rough house music. This being Indonesia don’t expect any drugs or sex to go along with the rock and roll – but the film is by no means a big happy marshmallow. Admittedly, much of the pleasure for many of us will simply be the milieu - a small town in Indonesia where one might least expect to find a film of this kind – but as this demonstrates the world is coming closer and closer together all the time.

Aga (Fedi Nuril) has just returned to Bandung from Jakarta and wants to form a rock band. It turns out his old easy going friend Awan (Aries Budiman) who is a drummer is also back in town after having lived in Tokyo for the past few years – so that part is easy but he still needs a vocalist. He thinks he spots one singing in a club but right after the gig she quits the band and walks away. He meets up with her again in the local record store which is run by three characters who give their customers quizzes before they part with their loved records (ala High Fidelity). Aga asks Gaia (Ayu Ratna) if she would be willing to come by his house the next day and see if they work well together. They do as Gaia tells him this is exactly the set up she has been looking for to transmit her vision and songs. They begin the arduous task of putting together a catalog of a few songs to play at local clubs and to put out a cheap CD. The music goes well but other issues slowly creep in – Aga’s difficult relationship with his brother who is a traditional gamelan musician and feels his brother is wasting his talents on rock music and a tentative romance between Aga and Gaia that is intruding on their music – but the real crusher is when a newspaper condemns Gaia for being illegitimate and her neighbors turn away from her and force her to flee town. But of course in the end music overcomes everything. Very nicely shot with lots of exteriors, the film moves back and forth comfortably between light comedy, drama and music. It’s main point of weakness is the indulgence of the director who perhaps should have cut back on the musical montage interludes a bit and though the actors do a reasonably fine job their lack of experience shows through as well – but Ayu in particular has a real hard edge fiery presence on the screen that is a welcome departure from most young sweet Indonesian actresses I have seen.

The three actors most amazingly wrote all the songs and formed a band called appropriately Garasi to perform them. Vocalist Ayu Ratna was discovered on Indonesian Idol where she made it into the finals but had to quit due to illness before her performance. She has a voice that reminds me a bit of vocalists like Tory Amos.