Essay: How Riri Riza Shows the Patriotic Character in ” GIE “

“I would rather be an outcast than be a hypocrite”



GIE is an Indonesian film which based on the journal written by Soe Hok Gie, the famous critical activist and author in 1960s. It’s an interpretation of Gie’s life journey.

Riri Riza, the director and script writer of the film explores the patriotism that Gie fighting for. Wikipedia (August 16. 2006) defines patriotism as the quality of individual or group in order to support their fatherland which can also be known as a nation, city or state.

In addition to the concept of the fatherland which suggests the ideas of power, authority and capacity to influence (Vincent, 2002) Riri Riza in this film also express the idea of nature connectedness, compassion, humanity, and love for the motherland.

Comparing with other patriotic movies, the character of Gie was built uniquely. Mostly, the patriotic movie set in the war time where the main character is fighting in a war, dedicated himself to live or die for defending his country or honor duties, for instance, Saving Private Ryan, We were Soldiers, and The Last Samurai. In these three movies, all of the central characters shares the same quality which is the willingness to sacrifice for their fatherland. The patriotic moment in these movies is created by the dramatic war action in each scene.

In contrast, Gie is totally different from the common heroic characters. He has never been sent to the war. Instead, he was a student and a teacher. He was an Indonesian of ethnic Chinese ancestry, as were many people in the minority group throughout the archipelago. Many Indonesians in that era did not esteem this particular ethnic. Even though the central character Gie appeared as an ordinary young man, the director still able to describe his patriotic side clearly by the strong script and the cinematic techniques so that every audience could feel it. However, this movie has stepped forward to prove that patriotic moment is not always created by a soldier in the battlefield but also in a simple way such what Gie had done.

 Reflection of Patriotism in “GIE”

There are many indicators how a person can be called as a patriot, some of the indicators are:

  1. Having both authority and capacity to influence (Vincent 2002, p.111)
  2. Emphasizing themselves in a free way of living in a republic
  3. Focusing themselves on the Political Liberty
  4. Showing the loyalty to the country which expressed in a more inclusive and defensive concern for the national issues.

Gie has fulfilled these four indicators perfectly. One of the reflections of Gie’s patriotism in this movie is can be seen from the script below:


Gie is on the bus, outside is raining. Suddenly, the bus has stopped. He looked at the outside, wondering what was just happened.


We are the new generation with the task to right the wrong things that had been done by the older generation. We will be the judge and jury for those who are corrupt. We are the generation that will lead Indonesia to the prosperity. Our current leaders were raised in the Dutch colonial era. Yes, they had fought for our independence.

From the bus, while he is looking at the policemen organizing the traffic, someone has captured his attention. A man who is not a beggar, looked so desperately to find some leftover food in a trash bin, and then hungrily eats them. Gie takes off from the bus right away and gives his money to the man. Gie returned to the bus, looking at the man from there.


But they have forgotten what they used to fight for. And now, people are suffering more than ever. I am here for you, the wretched and the oppressed! Who is responsible for this situation? The older generation, our corrupt leaders should be executed for what they have done.

As shown by the script above, it can be concluded that Gie owns the criteria of being a patriot. The script told about someone who loves his nation and cares for his people. Gie is well-known for his involvement in the numerous political rallies and his passion for hiking. He loves to experience nature, climbing the mountain with his activist fellows. People will always love him in the way he is, especially the student activists, outdoorsmen, and naturalists. Gie has changed the young generation in Indonesia. His journal “The Diary of a Demonstrator” first published in 1983 and still continued be one of the must reading books in Indonesia. The movie has become a reminder, a wake-up call for Indonesian youth to not forget their calling and duty as the judge, the jury and the good leader for their country.

Additionally, during the interview, Riri Riza has revealed that patriotism is a willingness to sacrifice for the citizen interest. He believes Gie was an intellectual young man who fought against the dictatorship and ramshackle social system in his surroundings. Gie always be the front liner of various demonstration even though he had realized what he did could put him in danger. Nevertheless, his attitude is more consistently expressed in his writing. Gie had never seen the problems in a small perspective but in a wider social context instead.

III. The Role of Script and Techniques

Riri Riza took three years in writing the script of Gie. Before writing, he selected the essential parts from the original diary of Gie and then conducted the research to have a deeper understanding of the situation that had been described in it. He admitted the selection is based on his intuitive choosing from the most interesting parts in the journal, and his personal opinion as an experienced producer can be counted too. The strong script can make the character becomes alive once again.

The director believes the original script of the journal and its correct interpretation should be put as the top priority, otherwise, Soe Hok Gie would be viewed as a different man. The voice over of Gie presents both high literary values in the script and the strong feeling of the main character, ensued the viewers to not lose his mood in each aspect of his life in the whole story. Moreover, this pattern is the most suitable way to reflect Gie’s thought and feeling.

Furthermore, in order to visualize the script into the shot, Riza has tried to conclude the purpose of each moment including the heroic, chaos, anger, or disappointed ones, before drawing the sketch and imagining the next editorial concepts. Moreover, the lighting also plays an important role to emphasize some moment, especially in certain scenes. Desaturate color is used to make the atmosphere becomes strainer and paler. The 1950s and 1960s environment should be presented clearly so the audiences could have easily drifted into that era. However, he also put emotion and feeling into the people to present his viewers the hard reality of living in the darkest period of Indonesian history.

In spite of those things, the more challenging work is handling the actor. Gie was someone real and for thirty-seven years, people has known him from his admirable writing. For that reason, the actor should be able to dive into the character in order to present his personality visually. Riri Riza chooses Nicholas Saputra as Gie and it needed a long time to decide because Nicholas is not an Indonesian of Chinese ancestry and doesn’t really look like Soe Hok Gie. But Arif Budiman, Gie’s older brother, suggested that Riza took the correct decision. However, the actor’s ability to represent the character was more important than his appearance. At the end, the result was not disappointing; Nicholas Saputra was honored as the best actor in Indonesian Movie Award.

In addition, other factors such as editing, music, and sound also have become essential parts to build the dramatic scenes. The drama brings us right into the intense social tension back in 1965. Owing to high political drama in this era, Riza put many montages, several intercuts of certain scenes, some off screen of the speeches of Soekarno—the Indonesian first president as well as showing tension in various political conflicts. Riri Riza wants to challenge the stereotype of the patriotism concept in Indonesia, which is only equated with the fight against Dutch and Japanese colonialism and also to inspire young people for being more political. “Taking a side in politic is OK, and even can be very cool!” he added.


To sum up, Riri  Riza as the director had succeeded in showing the patriotism character of Gie. Even though there is no war scenes and common typical heroes, the patriotism still has been described very well in the movie and the audience could feel how it defines Gie. Moreover, the strong script, cinematic techniques, and acting have become the crucial parts to deconstruct Soe Hok Gie’s life into ‘GIE’ the movie. Finally, GIE wants to show its audience that patriotism is not always be measured by fighting in a war or died in the battlefield. GIE make a difference by showing that any simple thing you did as long as you care for the society could be counted as a patriotism.


“GIE” : 76 shooting days, almost 200 technical crews and about 2500 supporting casts.

Directed by: Riri Riza

Produced by: Mira Lesmana

Written by: Riri Riza

Release date: July 14, 2005

Running time: 147 minutes

Budget: 10 billion Rupiah