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A movie still from Perempuan Sasak Terakhir. (Courtesy of SIF Institut Film)
Some Indonesian filmmakers try to capture the best of a locality in their movies. From picking locations in
remote areas around the country to using local stars, they make an effort to put together the best fragments of this country into their film frames.
It is still fresh in our minds how blockbuster film Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Warrior), which was based on Andrea Hirata’s novel of the same title, captured audiences’ hearts and attracted numerous tourists to Belitung Island in Bangka Belitung Provice.
The latest effort to bring Indonesia’s beauty to the silver screen is the film Perempuan Sasak Terakhir (The Last Sasak Woman). Executive producer I Made Rethuyana said the film was an initial effort to make Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara a center for cinematography, which he hopes will create an economic multiplier effect for people in the province.
“It will be good to have another region as the center of something rather than centralizing everything in Jakarta,” the Balinese business tycoon said.
The film tells the story of three main characters — Ryan, Anjani and Wati — young people from the indigenous Sasak tribe, who face problems in finding the
balance between their cultural traditions and the modern world around them.
In the film, we learn that Ryan’s mother had died when he was born, so he was raised by his uncle in Jakarta without having any connection to his traditional roots. Growing up, he returns to Lombok to meet his father, by this time an old man he meets for the first time. His father takes him on a long journey from his house in Mataram city to a remote area on the slopes of Mount Rinjani, where his village lies.
However, the two do not get along easily as Ryan forces himself to adapt to his conservative father who enthusiastically bombards him with historical and cultural information about his beloved island.
Once in the village, Anjani, a recent graduate, lives with her ageing father who fights to maintain the legacy of his late wife — a humble elementary school near the village. Her father tries to encourage children to attend the school, but he often ends up fighting a losing battle against PlayStation, the new attraction in the village.
One PlayStation owner has a daughter named Wati and a son who is addicted to the video game. Wati refuses to follow the traditions of her village, trying instead to be as modern as possible and appear like a city girl by wearing skimpy clothes and putting on too much make up.
Her utmost purpose in life is to marry a rich city man. Her dream almost comes true after she begins a relationship with a stranger whom she gets to know due an apparent wrong number by phone.
The story heats up as Ryan starts to lose his patience, Anjani’s father dies and Wati’s hot relationship with her new man disturbs the rest of the villagers. The film depicts beautiful scenery during the journey taken by Ryan and his father and we also get to enjoy the simple beauty of the traditional lambung shirt (loose shirt with triangular neck) and sarong, which is worn by Anjani.
Aufa Asfarina Febrianggie, who works as a local television anchor in Mataram, plays Wati and Anjani. Her acting skills, playing a flirty Wati, are better than Edwin Sukmono, who is not completely successful in delivering emotion as a man who is mesmerized by the beauty of Lombok but stressed out by his father. Wati’s flamboyant boyfriend, Suhendro, is acted well and draws real emotion from the audience.
Despite some technical hiccups, such as harsh movements from one scene to another, the biggest let-down in the film is its weak script. The dialogue is often rigid and forced, and does not resemble actual conversations in everyday life. In some scenes, the characters sound as if they are reading poetic lines to mark the country’s national anniversary. And on occasion, some of the dialogue is too preachy.
The films try to deliver many moral messages. Alas, some of the messages fail to come across and they lose focus in their execution. One such message is an attempt to say that money isn’t everything. After building the story to reach the moment, Edwin’s hysterical and unnecessary tears make the peak of the scene fall flat and appear corny.
Despite all its shortcomings, however, the film will wow viewers with scenes of the beaches and mountains, as well as some of the cultural events and traditional attire.
The film’s publicist, Eka Budiman, said the film may not be aired in cinemas, but they planned to arrange several public screenings in Jakarta and Lombok.
Verdict: Interesting film in terms of scenery, culture and fashion. Do not expect too much from the screenplay.
Perempuan Sasak Terakhir (The Last Sasak Woman)
(110 minutes, PT Lintas Antariksa andSIF Institut Film)
Starring: Aufa Asfarina Febrianggie,Edwin Sukmono
Director and screenwriter: Sandi Amaq Rinjani
Producer: I Made Rethuyana