Photocopier (Penyalin Cahaya) is an Indonesian-language Netflix Original film by Wregas Bhanuteja starring Shenina Cinnamon, Chicco Kurniawan, and Lutesha. Sur (Cinnamon) is a new student trying to keep up with her computer science studies while forming a social life outside of the strict household and work life imposed by her father (Lukman Sardi). But when she’s pressured into drinking too much at a party hosted by the theater group she does web design for, she wakes up the next morning to find her scholarship revoked on account of the photos somebody uploaded of her the night before.
Despite the initially simple-sounding plot, Photocopier is a story of a survivor who absolutely refuses to let her assault and violation go unaccounted for. She’s kicked out of her home for breaking Muslim and conservative Indonesian customs, forced to live with her best friend Amin (Kurniawan) who runs the campus’s photocopier. Her scholarship is revoked for breaking a morality clause in the funding agreement. And in spite of it all, she’s willing to hack her friends’ phones, abuse their trust, and drag Amin into the middle of all of it. At first, she’s seeking respite from her punishment, but ultimately, Sur is bent on pursuing justice at all costs.
Honestly, the middle portion of the film dragged somewhat. I thought I had cracked the answer to who uploaded the photos early on and so the slightly too-long run time had my attention drifting. During much of the first two-thirds of the film, Sur is slowly portrayed to be the victim of her own poor choices. Obviously, you know better than this, she was pressured, and the pictures were uploaded without her consent. But with every failure to produce evidence and person she wrongfully accuses, the weaker your sympathy becomes. Her quest to find the truth becomes tedious and almost grating. It’s masterful manipulation that renders the ending’s shock that much heavier and leaves you feeling guilty for ever having found her tenacity anything less than inspiring.
Cinnamon’s acting is especially what sells the role. She has particularly impactful moments with her mother (Ruth Marini) and Farah (Lutesha) as well as a great performance in a fun scene with Amin that will gladly remind you of the YA nature of the film. The emotional evolution Sur undergoes is a huge factor in the film’s ultimate impact. Kurniawan and Lutesha both put in their own strong performances as well, with Amin never quite sitting fully right but still feeling like the pillar he is while Farah is the far too cool kid who proves her loyalty and then some.
There are also some simply visually gorgeous moments like the celebration the theater group holds before their party after winning a major award. The combination of the coloring and costume choices with the music and general atmosphere set a great tone for the rest of Photocopier in that it’s going to be a sharply directed film. And no string of scenes demonstrates this more adeptly than the final several sequences. In the final several minutes of the movie, we have an emotionally powerful moment between characters, a disturbingly but incredibly shot final confrontation, and a beautiful resolution that is very well edited and ends on a perfectly inspiring shot. Truly, Bhunuteja’s directing through was great, but these final moments were truly excellent.
There are two other facets to Photocopier that I have to admire. The first is that the victims are not just women. As a survivor of abuse, I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen a male victim in anything that wasn’t SVU. When a male character comes forward as having also been abused, it’s a simple but really powerful moment that both demonstrates the reality that men can be victims too, and that it’s okay for men to be vulnerable, seek help, and be loved even when they tell the truth.
I also admire that we never what becomes of the perpetrator. I admire it because the movie names it pretty clear that even despite mounds of evidence and accusers, he very well might still get away with it. And so rather than make the movie’s conclusion about whether he does or not, or what that punishment would have been, it simply lets the focus be on the empowerment that comes with telling the truth and standing in solidarity with one another over it.
Photocopier is a heartfelt and inspiring movie that may not be what you necessarily expect it to be at the beginning, but I’m more than glad for the film it winds up becoming. There are some great performances and excellent direction behind the camera, in the editing room, and on the set. note: Moonfall movie