“What is a family for you?”
“Mom, Dad, Kids.”
A dialogue from the short film PERFECT P by Santosa Amin. The question comes up in a conversation among Putra and his new girlfriend Maria at a hip café in urban Jakarta. Despite the modern surface, Maria holds very conservative views about the concept of a family. As it turns out, not because she is an evil person but simply because she has not been confronted with different realities and ideas so far. Along with her new boyfriend, new concepts about family enter her life and leave her puzzled.
MADE IN INDONESIA NIA DINATA: KELUARGA ALA INDONESIA is a compilation of seven short films produced by Nia Dinata. The films work on the premise that understanding and tolerance is based on exposure to different ideas and concepts beyond our own experiences. Nia Dinata is well known as a filmmaker who dares to speak up against patriarchy and gender discrimination. In addition to her own works as a director, Nia Dinata is a filmmaker who makes filmmakers. As the founder of Kalyana Shira Foundation and through initiatives such as Project Change she opens up a space for young directors from different places in Indonesia to tell their stories. In doing so, she is critically aware that it is not only about the stories told but also about who the storytellers are. The diverse backgrounds of the directors become the core strength of this program.
In its entirety KELUARGA ALA INDONESIA is a statement: the notion of family in Indonesia is as diverse as the country and there is no such thing as one perfect model family that fits all. Holding on to one single concept of a family helps no one and harms many. This is the overarching suggestion of this program and it is a timely and important one.
ELINAH by Ninndi Raras is a fiction film taking us into the world of Elinah, a 14-year old girl. Married to a man who is much older than her with no sign of affection between them. We follow the pregnant girl through her day, doing household chores, talking to her unborn child, painting little flowers on her belly and the wall. Elinah is a child missing her mother. She attempts to take a bus to go far away but fails and has no option but to return to this place where she cannot be a child anymore.
Is every pregnant woman happy to become a mother? Can we blame Elinah? This film raises sensitive questions and makes impossible superficial judgments from the outsider perspective as by watching the film, we are with Elinah and witness her struggle.
HAR by Luhki Herwanayogi offers yet another perspective on an Indonesian family within the larger context of political change in Indonesia. What does financial hardship do to a family? Can we expect politicians to change our conditions? What happens when a father cannot live up to the expectation of a man providing for his family? What does all this do to a little boy? The film introduces us to a father and a son. The mother – a migrant worker in Hong Kong – is absent. The story revolves around the son waiting for her return in the midst of the arrival of electricity in their village and the dusk of Indonesian president Suharto. The world around is changing fast and hopes for change from outside are pulsating. But this is only background noise in the reality of the young boy waiting for his mother to return. Every approaching car turns him into hopeful excitement. It takes many cars until he decides to move on – into a future with electricity but without his mother.
DEMI SEBUAH PREVENSI by Wenda Maria and Imakulata Tokomonowir is a documentary about Klasina a female priest promoting reproductive health together with her children. How can the love and support of your family make you stronger to make a change in the world? This documentary is a beautiful answer to this question. It shows, that despite harsh circumstances the power of a family can create a positive impact for many. We follow a strong woman who is not scared to walk the extra mile – or in her case – to take a boat to bring knowledge about HIV/AIDS to the most remote corners of Papua. Klasina’s worst enemies are deeply rooted cultural misconceptions. Her husband, who is often away for work on a boat, supports her efforts.
THE LAST HOUSE (RUMAH TERAKHIR) by Thyke Syukur is the story of a family and their home: “Home is like heave we can rest and family anchors you otherwise life is pointless”. As tourists enter the scene the situation of the family gets worse. They loose their house, their home, their space to live. The police act against them, stepping in for investors from places far away. As the situation worsens, we learn that the children she is taking care of are adopted. To her, family is not only a question of flesh and blood. This woman already lives what Maria from Jakarta never had to think about. The film is a powerful and sensitive reminder that there are always people on the other side of progress.
SLEEP TIGHT MARIA by Monica Vanesa Tedja is the story of two young girls: Maria V and Maria P. Despite their first name they have another thing in common: they have a secret crush on Donny. Maria V is giving in to her longings and enjoys vibrant and wild fantasies about sexual encounters with Donny. The perfect Maria P suppresses these feelings but still ends up having those forbidden fantasies in her dreams. The film uses an almost comedic style and bravely presents female sexuality as something that is normal, as something that is okay and can even be fun. The sexual desires of teenage girls are constructed as dangerous and inherently evil. While male masturbation is something we can make jokes about female masturbation is rendered taboo. This is so normalized that young girls blame themselves and feel bad for their fantasies. SLEEP TIGHT MARIA is empowering for young girls who find themselves in a world where their desires are shunned. This film speaks to them: “you are not the only one – you are just fine”.
KEBAYA PENGANTIN by Nia Dinata is the story of two human beings in love. Why is the image of a perfect family more important than love between human beings? The film introduces us to a loving couple full of admiration for each other. In the rare moments when it is just the two of them they share a space of laughter, happiness and desire. Taking a wedding gown with them the two embark on a journey to the village where the wedding will be taking place. This has the potential of a beautiful love story – but it is not. Because these two lovers happen to be men. The location of the wedding in the village, the call to prayer on the ferry, subtle hints about the context that the lovers find themselves in. Their pure love for each other is rendered impossible by outside circumstances beyond their control. In the end one lover has to stand there and watch the person he loves marrying a woman. They surrender to the demands of a society that does not allow them to be together.
The films in this anthology raise many questions about the nature of a family. As audience we are invited to experience life worlds that are beyond our own experience. Beyond that the films also invite us to experience the diversity of Indonesia from hip and modern Jakarta to the outermost corners of Papua.
Find screening schedules at Minikino Film Week 4, Bali International Short Film Festival, 6 – 13 Oktober 2018 go to link: https://minikino.org/filmweek
Rosalia Namsai Engchuan is a PhD Candidate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany. Her project “The Stories before Film” looks at the vibrant production of short films in contemporary Indonesia. Rosalia’s earlier research focused on representations of femininity and teenage sexuality in Thai television.
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