Full of Child-like Innocence and Charm, INDEPENDENT48 Is An Inspiring Reminder To Stay True To Yourself
Independent48, or IND48 in short, is a documentary about an Indonesian male cover dance group of the same name. The group covers dances from the AKB48 Group in Japan, and as the only male cover dance group, IND48 struggles to get support from AKB48 fans. Despite everything, they are determined to pursue their dreams.
Director: Jonathan Wijaya
Cast: Dani Hidayatulloh
Runtime: 17 minutes
We’ve all grappled with issues about our identity and sense of self, especially in our younger days. Do we compromise for the sake of fitting in, or do we adamantly stick to our own beliefs at the cost of potentially being alienated by our peers? Finding someone who stays unabashedly and unapologetically true to themselves seems nothing short of a miracle — yet Dani Hidayatulloh, the face for Independent48, seems to have achieved just that.
Independent48, or IND48, is a male dance cover group for Japan’s AKB48 Group — which basically means that they cover dances that AKB48 has done before. We are first introduced to Dani, a member of IND48, as he dances in a shopping mall after closing hours alongside the rest of his group. This dance practice takes up a few minutes of the opening sequence, and placing it right at the beginning of the film is a smart move.
The energy and spirit that IND48 puts into the dance immediately captures my attention, and this sequence takes us directly into the main part of Dani’s life, where he practices AKB48 dance moves with a group of men clad in identical IND48 attires. They, as a whole, are clearly passionate about what they do. Bright smiles adorn their faces as they swing their arms and sway their hips with abandon, and despite the sweat glistening on their foreheads, they still insist on dancing, energetically and without shame, to their favourite tunes.
The rest of the film follows the same pattern as it brings us along Dani’s daily routine and gives us a glimpse into his personal life. Aside from IND48, the other half of his heart is occupied by his next greatest love: Doraemon. Dani has no qualms about showing off his geeky interests to the rest of the world. In fact, his room is liberally decorated with Doraemon and AKB48 merchandise, and he even belts out AKB48 tunes in public without being impeded by the Japanese lyrics — or the fear of being judged. His love for Doraemon and AKB48 is known to all, even to his friends outside of IND48, and he has no shame about it.
It is honestly inspiring to see someone who is so comfortable with himself and his interests being presented in a film without mockery or shame. Fandoms, or communities of people who share common interests, are often looked down upon by people who don’t particularly understand it, and it is easy to ridicule these people or disregard their fervent interests without making an effort to understand them.
Yet Independent48 chooses to present Dani simply as he is, as a person who wants to spend his time and energy on something that he loves and adore, without mocking him for his interests. This applies to the rest of the members in IND48 too, who are as passionate as he is about their idols. In fact, the film capitalises on the fervour and spirit that IND48 has as a whole, and uses their infectious energy to draw us, as outsiders, into their lives, such that we are better able to understand them as individuals.
However, being a male cover group for a band who mostly consists of male fans isn’t easy, and the people in IND48 have had their fair share of struggles, especially with regards to being accepted by their community — though this is only touched upon briefly. The film would have been made richer and more holistic if it had delved deeper into the struggles that they have had to experience in order to reach where they are now, and how they had managed to overcome them.
Regardless, the innocence and child-like enthusiasm that Independent48 manages to bring across is palpable, even through the screen, and I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the entire film’s 17-minute runtime. It is clear that IND48 is more than just a community to the people within it — it is home. And they are proud of it.
Inspiring and full of child-like delight, Independent48 is a heartening film about staying true to yourself — truthfully and shamelessly.
You can watch the film here.