The Amazingly Mixed-up Indonesia (Position among the Stars-Part 1)

I had no Saturday night plan and there a tweet of Diki Umbara caught my attention. He mentioned SBM Golden Lens Award at Erasmus Huis, a free documentary movie to watch, and (most importantly) a free meal for everyone. I made up my mind. This could be something fun to watch. The last time I missed a public free occasion at Erasmus Huis, Jakarta, it was a music performance whose performers/ singers I had never known of  before. And this time, I decided to go out for this. As everyone knows, I’m not a huge fan of going out late wandering around somewhere. For God’s sake, it’s Jakarta! You’ll never know what is going to happen to you.

I’m proud to claim myself  a staunch supporter of walking, for two reasons: I love my planet, and I can’t afford a car, a personal one. And this time, as usual, thanks to the proximity of Erasmus Huis, it only took me 30 minutes to get there. I got the house just in time.

When I rushed as if I were the late comer, I discovered almost no one there. “Ok, it said 7.30 PM, and why is it too quiet around here?” I half cursed by heart. I tried to catch my breath, scanning the entire venue for someone that at least I could talk with. None…

I saw some Dutch (pure guess, actually), sitting on the yard, discussing something with a laptop at a sunshade. As they seemed to be involved in warm exchanges of ideas, I felt like I didn’t want to interrupt. Some committee members at the entrance ignored me. Great!

I went in after asking them if it was allowed to get into the theater first. They allowed me, which was good because I had no idea what to do. The foods were served there yet no one was around me eating. So I guess it was  a bit early. I sat down, posted some pictures and updates on Facebook and Twitter, and all of a sudden, there they came. It was like a couple of minutes only after I left the banquet table and moments later the queue  grew long.

Everyone took a seat in the yard. Chairs were already set there, a roofless setting for the diners. We were eating and munching and swallowing and chatting, until drops of water started to fall down. The outdoor dinner setting was ruined in a second. Everyone ran from the drizzle, saved themselves and their dear foods and drinks.

A not-so-thin guy came to us and let us come into the theater to continue enjoying dinner. I finished eating the broccoli as quickly as I could and dashed into the theater. And the drink, which looked like fresh water, turned out a glass of soda. I was dehydrated till I got home.

And oh,  before the movie (the title of which I had known before) started, there were awards for The Best Documentary “Rumah Multatuli” by Sapto Agus Irawan, The Best Student Documentary “Sop Buntut” by Deden Ramadani , and The Best Audience Choice “Hidupnya Bocah Ondel2”by  Mega F. Yohana. What we were abut to watch that night was “Position among the Stars”, the winner of the best documentary of Golden Lens Festival.

Being directed and produced by Leonard Helmrich et. all, this documentary movie was beyond my expectation. Documentary movies are generally ‘serious’ stuff. I didn’t expect to see something enriching and candid here but I did. As Leonard, who also was there, greeted the audience and gave a brief foreword telling how the movie was about, I thought I would leave my seat after 15 minutes (30 minutes tops!) but I was there sitting for like 2 hours straight. The movie, Leonard said, was inspired by the conflicts related to different faiths in Indonesia (in this case, Islam and Christian). It was nicely portrayed by the crew when the star-and-moon topping of a mosque minaret and the cross of a church were shot in the same frame altogether.

The movie started with several random scenes showing the chronicles of Indonesia: BLT (Bantuan Langsung Tunai : cash for every poverty-ridden household in the country) riot, Soeharto downfall, an angry, threatened cobra being surrounded by peasants. Finally it was focusing on one central character: an old lady (whose named I forgot). She, apparently from Central Java, is a Christian while her one and only son left is a Moslem.  Theresia, or Tari, is her grandchild, a typical teenager with her long hair and high school life style.

It mostly tells about the harsh life that the family has to live both in the merciless Jakarta and the less promising hometown. Too many cute scenes to tell here. The fact is the movie does explore my emotions. I laughed, cried, stunned and it led me to much deeper understanding on my being Indonesian.


In spite of being called documentary, it’s not another serious, brooding National Geography trip to watch. Lots of funny scenes are scattered throughout the movie.

The first that caught my attention most is when the old lady tried to stop the train moving towards her She stood just right in the middle of the railway in hope that the train would stop like she wished. It was pretty much scarry as the train seemed to keep moving while the old lady stood still with arms wide open. People might think she wanted to commit suicide but she was doing that so as not to have to go to the nearby train station. What happened next is she and her son had to take an extraordinary mode of transportation. Moments later, the two passengers were on a board moved by motorbike but what made it cute is the fact that the driver had to face and drive backward to get to the station. And the laughter broke as we saw these people moving backwards on the railway. They moved with a mountain as the background. Lovely indeed!

Another is when they lived in Galur, Jakarta. The entire neighborhood was sprayed with the insecticides (as dengue fever prevention). The son, who loved breeding Cupang fish, tried as best as he could to save the mosquitos larva around the house because he needed the larva to feed his fish. In fear of losing his sole income stream (this man was jobless, he lived from breeding cupang fish as fighters and bets) , he got into the house while the white fog of insecticides covered the entire house. To avoid being choked by the fog, he grabbed his wife’s bra (yes, BRA) to cover his nose and mouth while running frantically to save the larva and fish from the evil insecticides. Everyone giggled and laughed to tears.

Compassion, homesickness and being home

I must admit I cried. I DID cry several times because of the touching movie scenes (Thank God it was so dark anyone wouldn’t notice!). Seeing the old lady and her friend simply reminds me of my own two grandmothers living in my hometown. They’re still alive (though not kicking) and I really wished to come and see them. I mean, we’ll never know how long our time on earth is. It’s really saddening me I can’t be with them but that’s how life should go. We can’t be with our beloved ones all the time, whenever, wherever we want. Each and every one of us is in fact a solo traveler, so separation is supposed to be no stranger to us. Nothing is as fresh as the pain caused by being  or having to go away from our craddle, our comfort zone, and experiencing homesickness. Something hollow inside us and we have to endure the emptiness.

Back to the movie, it was the compassion that made the old lady buy a Nokia camera phone for Tari, her granddaughter. It cost her IDR 600,000 , not a meager sum of money for the family. Tari finally got what she desired somehow. The grandmom wished Tari would study harder with the phone in hand. But that was such a huge mistake. The phone was derailing her from the right track. Once Tari came into contact with the virtual world, she changed. Even Facebook was presented here as one of the factors responsible for the drastic behavior and mindset change of the younger Indonesians, as far as I’m concerned. Tari, like most high school students these days in big cities in Indonesia, uploaded tons of photos with her so-called boyfriend and those were taken by the camera phone the grandmom bought her. Sounds familiar? To me, yes it is. Spoiling kids with gadgets never works, never! They have to earn those PlayStation, Blackberrys, and iPads!

And one more scene about being always attached to home is very well reflected by the old lady’s obstinacy as she argued with the son about how important it is for her to come back every 2-3 months to her hometown. “How on earth can I leave my hometown and stay in Jakarta for good? This is my home, I can’t leave it no matter what!” she yelled at the son when he talked her into living permanently in the capital on the train heading to Jakarta. Typically Javanese way of thinking, ain’t it?

The theater was packed with around 200 people!

3 responses to “The Amazingly Mixed-up Indonesia (Position among the Stars-Part 1)”

  1. […] social media ← “Position among the Stars”: The Amazingly Mixed-up Indonesia […]

  2. […] dua orang. Hampir setahun lalu saya juga pernah berada di sini, untuk menonton film pemenang ajang SBM Golden Lens Award di bulan November 2011. Sangat […]

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