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'Humba Dreams' contemplates community issues faced by Sumba people

Bambang Muryanto

The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta  /  Wed, July 31, 2019  /  04:27 pm

Following its world premiere at the 2019 Shanghai International Film Festival, renowned director Riri Riza's latest work Humba Dreams was screened for the first time in Indonesia in Yogyakarta over the weekend.

Humba is a nickname for Sumba, an exotic island in East Nusa Tenggara.

Produced by Miles Films, Humba Dreams attracted global attention two years ago after winning the CJ Entertainment Award at the 2017 Busan International Film Festival's Asian Project Market (APM).

The 72-minute film narrates the complicated issues surrounding the people of Sumba, such as Marapu faith believers, poverty, limited infrastructure and migrant workers.

“This film is [about] today’s Sumba people, who are still loyal to their traditions but have to deal with modern challenges,” the movie's producer, Mira Lesmana, told reporters on the sidelines of the screening event in Yogyakarta on Saturday.

Mira said the idea to make Humba Dreams came when she and Riri were filming martial-arts action film Pendekar Tongkat Emas (The Golden Cane Warrior) in the region. During their time there, they realized that Sumba, in addition to boasting breathtaking landscapes, also has various community issues.

In the film, these complicated issues are told through the character of Martin (JS Khairen), a university student hailing from Sumba who is finishing his film studies in Jakarta. One day, his mother tells him to return to Sumba to deal with a family problem. He later finds out that a Sumba spiritual figure received a message from the spirit of Martin’s late father, asking Martin to open his father’s storage box. As Martin's family follows the Marapu faith, his father's body is kept inside the family home, where he rests in a sitting position.

Read also: New documentary highlights Sumba women's hopes and challenges

The box contains, among other things, a video camera and a film that people in the village must watch, according to the message from Martin’s father. Martin must find the chemical materials to process the film as they are rare on the island. During his search, Martin meets and falls in love with a married woman named Anna (Ully Triani).

Riri, who has been exploring Indonesia since 2003, shared his enthusiasm in making the film in Sumba. He is hopeful that the movie could encourage people to see Indonesia from other perspectives, not only of Jakarta or Java.

“Out of some 100 films made in Indonesia, 95 percent are filmed in Jakarta or other big cities in Java,” he said.

Unlike Riri’s other films such as Ada Apa dengan Cinta (What's Up With Cinta) and Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Troops) that are easy to understand, Humba Dreams requires viewers’ knowledge on Sumba to help them understand the issues explored in the film.

Even for Riri, the film is not enough to explain the complexity of the issues faced by people in Sumba. He plans to publish a journal on the island and has also created an art installation titled Humba Dreams (un)Exposed, which is currently on display at the ARTJOG MMXIX at the Jogja National Museum until Aug. 25.

Visitors can have a sneak peek at the director's cuts of the film through three sitting statues of dead bodies according to the Marapu tradition. Riri collaborated with a number of artists for the artwork, including Studio Batu founder Wulang Sunu.

“The arts have to be able to develop us further,” Riri said.

In Yogyakarta, Humba Dreams is set to be rescreened on Saturday and Sunday. Mira said the film would not be marketed on cinemas.

“It will be screened through communities to encourage discussions.” (yun/kes)

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