Rockin' Busan!

Please have a look at this photo. It’s an image of a young man who’s spent much of his life dreaming of being a rock star, and for the first time this week actually felt like one. 


JALANAN isn’t a movie about life and death. The stakes in it aren’t very high. It isn’t about saving babies or curing disease or eradicating dire poverty. What we’re doing through this film is giving marginalized people a voice, acknowledging their worth, sharing a hopeful story, increasing awareness, and showing Indonesia in a light that isn’t good or bad – but merely honest.

So it’s these little moments – street busker Ho on his first ever trip overseas, flirting with and being admired by three beautiful AirAsia cabin crew – that make us happy and excited, that make this film worth doing.

But we didn’t bring Ho all the way to Korea to produce a feel-good story for social media. We brought him to be shamelessly exploited at the Busan International Film Festival as JALANAN’s colorful icon so that his story (and Titi’s and Boni’s) can attract more attention, get wider distribution and create greater awareness for the universal social justice issues raised in the film.

So we planned to work Ho hard this week: to force him to spend hours distributing flyers and postcards with us, to attend annoying press interviews and screenings and industry meetings. We assumed the culture shock would be intense, that he’d be disoriented and possibly even shy.

We were very wrong.

Since boarding that AirAsia flight, and especially since disembarking in Korea, Ho’s been on fire. Meeting and greeting viewers, introducing his film, telling people proudly about Indonesia and his life on the streets, thanking everyone in Korean (“Kamsahamida!”) flirting with Korean women, signing posters and postcards, giving out his producer’s business cards, adding new friends to his Facebook.

He’s also taken a keen interest in Korea, sampling every kind of local food we stumble upon (it was eel barbeque & soju rice wine last night), asking to visit traditional neighborhoods rather than malls, and generally marveling at how different Busan is from Jakarta.

Yesterday morning he casually announced: “I’m in the mood to jam today. I wanna play music for the Koreans.” We took him and his beat up old guitar straight to the enormous Busan Film Festival Center, where he opened his guitar case in the middle of the massive square and began to croon his signature tunes of social angst, loud and proud in Bahasa Indonesia It didn’t take long before dozens of passersby gathered around him in fascination, then started snapping photos, then even started dancing.


They dropped coins in his case, then a few banknotes. Someone gave him 5,000 Won (about $5), the biggest single busking tip he’s ever received. But mostly, it was amazing to witness a street musician from the margins of Jakarta emerge here larger than life, surrounded in downtown Busan by admiring strangers, his music somehow touching  people who couldn’t understand a word.

Then he caught the attention of some of the film folks: Legendary Malaysian actress/director Sofia Jane, who saw (and loved) JALANAN the previous day, spotted him and asked him to serenade her with a love ballad. Of course he obliged, and her camera crew caught it all on film.


Then we stumbled upon a Bollywood crew who also asked to pose with the scruffy troubadour from Jakarta.


After our second screening at a packed CGV theater in Centum Mall, throngs of Korean girls (and a few Korean guys) waited for Ho in the lobby after our Q&A, then surrounded him and begged him to sign their JALANAN ticket stubs, postcards and posters, and to pose for a hundred photos fired from Samsung and LG smartphones in pink Hello Kitty casings.


This was the sort of cultural interaction you couldn’t never plan, anticipate or even script. All we knew when we decided to bring Ho to Korea was that it would probably be a very special experience for everyone.

On that count at least, we were totally right.

We are so grateful to our many generous supporters who contributed to making this Korea trip possible through our fundraising campaign on You can check it out here: Just 13 days remain in our 30-day campaign, and we’re still at 50% of our $20,000 target. Please consider adding your support over the next few days, or sharing this campaign with others so that more amazing trips like this,  and more great exposure for JALANAN, can be made possible in the coming months.