#Asia Ken and Andrew are all of us: A review of Kaskus founders’ biopic


We don’t do movie reviews. But when the story behind one of Indonesia’s biggest online platforms made it to the big screen, e27 decided to give it a shot


The huge amount of capital raised by startups within the last year may not be the most important indicator of the state of Indonesia’s digital industry, rather, maybe the local movie industry’s interest in taking the country’s startup stories to the silver screen could be a sign of success.

On the small screen, audiences are being entertained with OK-Jek which airs on NET TV at 7 pm from Monday to Friday. OK-Jek is a sitcom that features the daily adventure of OK-Jek drivers, a fictional ride-hailing startup. The series has been around since December 2015, and it takes no genius to understand how the popularity of Go-Jek and GrabBike had inspired the making of this show.

But the blockbuster is Sundul Gan: The Story of Kaskus (700 Pictures, 2016)* which hit the theatres last weekend.

This is a biopic of Ken Dean Lawadinata and Andrew Darwis — co-founders of Indonesia’s favourite online discussion and e-commerce forum Kaskus. The movie portrays the young entrepreneur-duo’s journey from their first meeting to their largest funding round, narrated in a humorous and dramatic manner.

Apart from producing the movie by themselves, they also made a guest appearance in it.

Also Read: Indonesian online community Kaskus forays into e-commerce

The story began on a high note with Ken (Dion Wiyoko) angrily stated how Andrew (Albert Halim) had ruined his life. Then it moved into a series of flashbacks of the duo’s time in Seattle and Jakarta.

The tandem could not be more different when they first met in the US city: while Andrew was a serious, quiet young man with a proper job in the IT sector, Ken was a spoiled brat who once spent three-months playing video games, without sleep.

Ken was lonely when he first arrived in the city, but he found his true calling when he discovered his cousin Andrew was indeed the founder of Kaskus, a popular online discussion forum among Indonesian teenagers. Kaskus is a popular platform that champions ‘freedom of speech’, where anyone can post absolutely anything from cats to durian to pornographic images.

Kaskus poster

The movie poster

The ride began when Ken proposed to bring Kaskus back home from the US (where it was registered) to Indonesia, which Andrew outrightly rejected.

Once Ken managed to trick Andrew into coming home, they began the long and winding journey of building the startup in Indonesia.

Once the founders adjusted to the different – and often conflicting— ways of handling responsibility, they realised that there are many issues left that might hamper Kaskus’ fundraising attempt, such as hackers and Ken’s own wedding plans.

With growth of the startup, more issues threatened the friendship between the duo and at one point in time, Andrew had to testify as a witness to the police for a crime he did not commit (no spoiler!).

Also Read: Kaskus CEO launches book about being Indonesia’s youngest CEO

Overall e27 gives the move a three out of five star rating. It was not great, but still an enjoyable experience.

First and foremost, we’ve completely ignored the technicalities as the movie is obviously lacking in resources for the visual effects.

That being said, the movie has many flaws: it has an overwhelming amount of opening scenes, so the audience is exhausted before the plot actually progressed.

But, it does takes an interesting approach by ‘breaking the fourth wall’, a term to describe characters who break the imaginary ‘wall’ between audience and movie by addressing them directly.

Generally, Sundul Gan entertaining enough for a Monday night activity at the mall waiting for the traffic jam to clear, but not a flick that evokes screams of delight whenever a new version of the trailer is out on Youtube.

Unless if the viewer is a Kaskuser, or someone who is deep in the startup industry, the jokes, and the struggle of the characters, may not land.

In fact, Sundul Gan might just be the confession that startup founders have been waiting to make.

The sacrifices (guess how Ken managed to find money to buy that new server), the misunderstandings (Andrew thought Ken partied too hard; Ken thought he was just trying to entertain investors), the temptations (when Andrew was provoked by an online threat), and the moments of epiphany (right before Andrew pitched in a presentation that would give Kaskus its largest funding round) are things that startup founders might have experienced throughout their career. Things that they cannot publicly mention just yet; but one day, when the time is right, it will be the moments that define their journey.

We are so looking forward to see the stories behind Tokopedia or Traveloka on the big screen.

* “Sundul gan!” is a phrase commonly used by Kaskus users. To propel their favourite thread into the top slot in the website’s first page, they would leave new comments started or ended with this phrase.

Image Credit: Sundul Gan: The Kaskus Story Facebook page

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