Pandemic Diary: The Rise of Javanese Short Movie Makers

“Tilik”, one of the short movies told in Javanese capturing the daily lives of locals in Central Java

As the government allows theaters to legally operate few months ago, I still hold back.

First, because I want to stay safe while the pandemic is not really over.

Secondly, because I feel already quite entertained by what I find on the web. I can now watch a lot of movies on YouTube or other free and low-paid movies platforms in the comfort of my own bed. I just want to cut my time spent for preparing myself to go out and wear a mask and stay alert as I mingle with others in public space.


So after some months spent at home, I’ve seen the rise of popularity of Javanese short movie makers. The movies are uniquely made because the dialogs are all in Javanese, accompanied with Indonesian and English subtitles of course. And the directors and scriptwriters shamelessly show the Java-ness here. The setting, the characters, the ambiance… every single thing in the movie can only be found in Java (by Java, I refer to its society and culture, as opposed to island).

Javanese Culture is a culture of its own, centered in Java Island, which coexists along with Sundanese Culture in the western part of Java Island. That’s all I can say for simplicity’s sake here.

“Tilik” and Bu Tedjo

I did watch “Tilik”, one of the most viewed Javacentric short movies, long before the pandemic hit the world in 2019 at Kineforum, an independent movie theater in Jakarta.

It never became a huge hit until all of us were locked up at home and frustrated, and then desperately looking for home entertainment to consume in bed to escape from the coronavirus death toll update.

The short movie lets you enjoy the cruel tongues of gossipers who are all here depicted as veiled Javanese women taking a truck to see their sick neighbor. Along the way, they talk and speculate lengthily based on their observation and assumption about a single girl who lives a suspiciously quiet life.

The movie unravels the bad side of gossip and how cruel social life can really be. Some say it describes perfectly the sharp-tongued Javanese women. But I digress. Every women – and men – to a various extent has the tendency to gossip regardless of their races, ethnicity, gender, etc.

“Tilik” gives you a moral lesson that the ultimate gossiper (Bu Tedjo) personality lies within every human. Without any exception.

Some Recommendations

Another short movie I recommend to watch is “Anak Lanang” (Son). It tells the life of two boys who live together under the same roof, born to the same father but different mothers. Their relationships mostly revolve around rivalry and competition and it sickens everyone around them.

Bu Tedjo is once again featured here by Yogyakarta Palace.

What is interesting is that Kraton Jogja or Yogyakarta Palace shows a deep interest in making use of this short movie trend to reintroduce their seemingly obsolete Javanese cultural values and ways of life so that public – in Indonesia and worldwide – learns better about what Javanese Culture at its finest really is.

We see the effort of the Palace to stay relevant and updated with the current trends while preserving the Javanese Culture and its values, which are mostly forgotten even by the Javanese people themselves.

The last movie I recommend to watch is “Pitutur”. This movie is special as well as it brings you to a family living two different lives following a divorce. We can see how the sons are struggling to stick together while both parents have lived their own lives.

Let me know your opinion about the movies I recommend here. Do you like or dislike the movies? And how do you think watching this can rethink your world view or opinion about the world around you? Have your say! (*/)

About akhlis

Writer & yogi
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