CIFF 2014 Music Series entry Jalanan is a documentary nearly 7 years in the making

Tuesday 02nd, September 2014 / 14:39
By Joel Dryden

CALGARY — Canadian director Daniel Ziv has lived in Indonesia since 1999. He spoke to BeatRoute via Skype about the film’s recent success in the region and its upcoming premiere at the Calgary International Film Festival.

Having spent nearly seven years documenting the lives of three Indonesian street performers, Ziv sounded relieved at the film’s reception so far.

“It became an obsession, it became my life,” Ziv said. “You get pulled into this thing, finding out and uncovering all these layers. I got to the point of no return and it became epic in scale – it had to, or there’d be no point in wasting all these years.”

Ziv walked away from the project with nearly 250 hours of footage and spent a year and a half editing the film. The documentary, which had started as a profile of three performers, evolved into a portrait of a city overwhelmed by corruption and inequality.

The capital city of Jalanan became the fourth character in the film, said Ziv.

“It became a portrait of Indonesia – it was a period in recent history where Indonesia was undergoing a transformation from dictatorship and it moved into a very fragile democracy,” Ziv said. ”A majority of Indonesian citizens were falling through the cracks.”

Ziv spent two months looking for street performers to follow, jumping off of buses looking for people. He found Boni, Ho and Titi and knew immediately they were the right fit for the project.

“I knew within three minutes in each case – they’re all charming and charismatic and cocky and cheeky,” he said.

Ziv set up an agreement with the trio – they would give him complete access to their lives and in return Ziv would make a movie that they felt was true to themselves.

“Both of us kept our sides of the deal,” Ziv said. “They are really, really happy with the film.”

Ziv described the experience of the trio seeing the film for the first time – they entered a glamorous air-conditioned theatre with more than 400 people and were astonished to see the audience laugh and clap and cheer.

“It lifted them up – they’ve been on national television numerous times, they’re on posters,” Ziv said. “They’ve really become almost a household name in Indonesia.”

Since the premiere, Ziv has stayed in daily contact with Boni, Ho and Titi and has set up a housing fund to buy each of them a small home. The team spent two months in the studio and will soon release a soundtrack from the film featuring original recordings, from which the musicians will receive all of the proceeds.

Ziv said that he hopes that the film showcases that the marginalized people of Indonesia are important and have valuable insights and wisdom about the world around them.

“The reason I gravitated to them is the reason I continue to like them and learn from them,” he said. “They embody this insistence on freedom and creative freedom. They have nothing, and more than anything, they decided to create music.”

“It’s a very raw portrayal for them, telling their stories.”

Photo: Courtesy of Jalanan film

Photo: Courtesy of Jalanan film

Jalanan will showcase at Eau Claire (Sept. 27, 7:15 p.m. and Sept. 28, 4:30 p.m.) as part of the Calgary International Film Festival’s Music Series. For more information on the film, visit

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