Indonesian director Lucky Kuswandi’s “108 Days” has all the ingredients of an explosive story. It probes into a school scandal that kindles national outrage, homophobic and racist sentiments, pseudo-nationalism and anti-foreigner rhetoric – all of which are widely in evidence across Asia today.
The project, which is being pitched for the first time at the Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), is a fictional drama. But it draws on several recent court cases, where truth and facts took a backseat to trial by public opinion.
The story kicks off with the accusation that an expatriate teacher had sexually assaulted a pupil. It ruins the reputation of the school and the teacher, sparks ever more lurid accusations and media involvement. Without evidence, the police keep the openly gay teacher in jail for nearly four months while they look to benefit from a hefty lawsuit. And only one detective believes that the teacher might be innocent.
“Social media has replaced the traditional public space, where truth is less influential than the appeals to emotion and personal belief. The project aims to examine our current post-truth era and the chaos and complications it brings,” says producer Muhammad (Eddy) Zaidy.
“Lucky’s previous films are observations on multi-faceted Indonesian society seen through the eyes of outsiders. ‘Madame X’ featured a transgender superhero fighting against growing discrimination and intolerance. His ‘In The Absence of the Sun” is seen through the eyes of women fighting against their assigned, heteronormative roles. And ‘Ali & The Queens,’ his latest film, features Indonesian women immigrants living together in Queens, New York, and challenging the idea of what a family really is,” Zady told Variety. “The outsider in ‘108 Days’ is the accused foreigner, whose case reveals more about the mobilization of a country going towards regressive hyper-nationalism.”
The project is being produced by Zaidy and the experienced Meiske Taurisia at Palari Films. The company has completed production on two films by art-house darling Edwin: “Posesif” and “Aruna & Her Palate.” It is now completing Edwin’s “Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash” and Kuswandi’s “Ali & The Queens.”
Zaidy say that current plans for “108 Days” are largely conventional with a world premiere at an international film festival, followed by a local theatrical release and later release via streaming services.
HAF sees the team looking for potential co-producers, distributors and sales agents and the bulk of the $750,000 production budget.