I was born in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. My parents both came from Java island. It was their first time living outside their home island. I was fourteen when we moved places. First Malang, and then Yogyakarta. Both in Java. I was exposed to new cultures and local languages. I am the eldest of two in a Moslem family. My extended family expected me to become the role model, wearing hijab was one. My parents do not force me to wear a hijab. It’s the society. My father believed that my own consent and comfort should be the priority. Being accepted in my community sometimes forces me to stand between my values and society’s. I am an outsider.
As an outsider, I often feel like a subject of society’s approval. Surviving as an individual sometimes required rules tweaks, violation even. When violation occurs, satisfaction rises, a natural dose of dopamine. Now, I found a way. I’ve added multiple layers of new identities within me. These different identities will arise depending on necessity, It’s my survival mechanism as an outsider.
Sazkia Noor Anggraini, the programmer of Indonesia Raja 2021 for Special Region of Yogyakarta & Central Java, wrote on her program introduction: “Seputaran Pinggiran” portrays association between personalities and identities depicted in Javanese cultures. My writing is an exploration of how the five films selected in the program exposed outsiders’ traits.
Humans always cling to their attachments of their own possessions. In Andrew Bachtiar’s MOKSA (Remarkable Journey To The End, 2020), Mbah Sapto tries to get away from all these worldly possessions, he prepares himself to surrender. He believes it is the way to reach Moksa. It becomes his sole purpose. No one can stop him.
The film’s ending is pretty much an open ending. Does Mbah Sapto feel fulfilled? Did he reach Moksa? I tried to find the answers through details of Mbah Sapto’s personal paintings, his odd rebirth in the forest, and sudden appearances of guardians and devilish monsters that fight each other. He believes that something better awaits him and he will have to surrender.
I can not help projecting myself as Mbah Sapto. I have an eternal awareness as an outsider, who came out of nowhere. I found these are hard to commit but reachable. All my life, I felt the sense to surrender, followed by detaching myself from my situations and problems, hoping for a better next phase.
“Be patient, you’ll just need to adapt, in Java you can be a successful person.”
I think it’s the best line in the film Maria Ado’e (Poor Maria, 2020) directed by Gleinda Stefany. It’s such an ironic statement. Most people perhaps have heard similar advice like Maria got from her mother. Be patient and adapt. When you fail, just repeat, be patient and adapt.
Maria’s inevitable sufferings from moving around to escape bullying based on skin color is a common case in Indonesia. Maria’s visual characteristics define the root of every problem she has.
Maria keeps getting brainwashed by roommates who bad-mouthing her. She pulled off nonsense actions to get respect from her roommates. She denies her own identity. Be patient and adapt is easier to speak than done. Adapting requires both parties to be involved. Adapting requires tolerance.
Outsiders = Foreign
I’m 22 years old, spent more than half of my life at school with approximately a total of more than 150 former classmates. I just realized that I have had only one Chinese-Indonesian classmate, ever. That’s Cancan. He is my college mate. We study film at the same university in Yogyakarta.
It’s interesting to see Stefanus Cancan’s Angpao (2020) selected in this program. Michael had to memorize family relationship names to get the red envelope with a money gift “Angpao” in Chinese New Year. I received “angpao” during Eid Mubarak but gladly I don’t have to memorize kinship titles in foreign languages. I’ve never heard about this custom before. I appreciate the programmer’s pick on this film, as it brings new knowledge for me about Chinese Indonesian tradition that I know nothing of.
Outsiders are not Free
Tresno Waranggono portrays society’s interest affects a person’s decision-making process, to the point where there is no freedom to determine what is best even for themselves.
Ambar identifies herself as shemale, living in suburban Sragen, Central Java. Fitri Mursidah invites us to see Ambar daily activities while listening to her life stories and statements regarding her circumstances as shemale. Unsurprisingly, she has a lot of difficulties embracing who she truly is.
I love the taste of insurgence, but I don’t see it coming in this film. This is where things get hard for an individual. How the crowd slowly devours one individual freedom, until one blend in with the surrounding, detached from their self-identity.
Rebellious Outsiders That Got Repressed
The setting of the film (ABRI Masuk Desa, directed by Bowo Leksono) was the 1997 Election, somewhere in Purbalingga, Central Java. The devil is in disguise. Fajar, a student, went back to his hometown with rumors and threats lingering around him. He knew the current stakes. From Fajar’s point of view, social force was designed to keep the mob intact. Rebelling was one of the trends to search for true independence and fairness. Only God knows how many ways they were being silenced.
Indonesian reformation (1997) and ABRI Masuk Desa are known unknown terms to my generation. I’ve heard about terms in school but paying very little attention to the topic. I studied in a Moslem-centered high school. The school obligates all moslem students to wear hijab. At first, I resisted, voiced my rights of feeling comfortable in the way I dressed. They lectured me with Quran’s verses. I started to get pressured into being expelled from school. At the end, I obeyed.
Seeing Fajar in this film, I was hoping he would rebel against the force. Turns out the crowd devours him. All his hard work and determination fade as he walks away from his village. Outsiders rebelled and got repressed.
Eventually, how do we define outsiders? I think There’s no need to define them. As an outsider myself, I think being treated equally is the most important. It just feels nice to be able to interact, collaborate, and complement each other without any invisible wall of judgment separating us apart.
Written by Azalia Syahputri. Edited by Fransiska Prihadi