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Four Indonesian films you must watch now

Reza Mardian
Reza Mardian

Film enthusiast

Jakarta  /  Wed, October 23, 2019  /  02:44 pm
Four Indonesian films you must watch now

Asmara Abigail in 'Perempuan Tanah Jahanam' (BASE Indonesia on YouTube/File)

As I am writing this, I realize that there are numerous movies in the cinema with strong narratives about women. Earlier this month, I was selected for a film programming class conducted by alternative cinema Kineforum and the Jakarta Arts Council. In the workshop, I learned that it’s important to highlight films to be celebrated for their interesting themes.

Programmers usually curate films for festivals. Since I'm not affiliated with any film festivals or communities, I decided to curate Indonesian films you cannot afford to miss this month. All are centered on women.

1. Bebas

If perhaps you have wondered about what it means to be a woman or are curious about stereotypes of femininity and masculinity, this movie will lead you into deeper contemplation. All protagonists in the movie are women, except for Jojo (played by Baim Wong and Bhaskara). The women experience harassment, are undermined and encounter subtle gender stereotypes. Jojo, meanwhile, who mostly serves as the punchline of the joke or the happy guy in the group, unfolds a revelation by questioning his masculinity and his sexuality. In the end, the character's arcs make the movie highly relatable. Bebas has been in theaters for three weeks, so this week might be your last chance to see it on the big screen.

2. Perempuan Tanah Jahanam

A classic horror/gory film crafted by Joko Anwar and produced by the people behind Pengabdi Setan (2017) and The Wailing (2016), the film might look entertaining and enjoyable on the surface. Centering on women and power, Perempuan Tanah Jahanam argues that it’s twice as hard to be a woman in a post-truth era such as now. 

Nyi Misni (Christine Hakim) and protagonist Maya (Tara Basro) embody this moral imperative. As women, it’s very hard for them to be heard, unless they have men speaking on their behalf. Seeing this film reminded me of politician Tsamara Amany’s struggle as people constantly question her persona, just because she’s a young woman. Another supporting character in the movie, Ratih (Asmara Abigail), faces the same issue. As a woman, it’s very hard just to survive in her own village. Joko Anwar did a great job of writing this character and casting Asmara for the role. While Christine Hakim and Marissa Anita show incredible performances, it is Asmara Abigail’s character that portrays hope in the film.

If you still wonder why you should watch the film, remember this is Christine Hakim’s first horror movie in the renowned actress' 40 years of work.

3. Susi Susanti: Love All

Scheduled for release on Thursday, the film is a true story about Chinese-Indonesians who represented Indonesia at the Olympics during the turmoil of 1998. History might tell us the facts, but the film provides context for one of the most important moments of our country. It’s a film about Susi Susanti, but it’s also a film about Indonesia that is still relevant today. 

4. Love for Sale 2

Honestly, I am rather skeptical about the second installment of Love for Sale, along with its poster that shows women having questionable roles in the household.

But Love for Sale 2 might bring something different to the table. Gading Marten played lead role Richard in the first movie. Now, the male protagonist Ican is played by Adipati Dolken, albeit facing the same female character, Arini (Della Dartyan). What I can gather from the trailer and the teasers is that the stakes are higher for Ican as he has a dominant matriarch pressuring him to get married, while Arini might still be in her own turmoil as Richard has been searching for her.

This movie is interesting for me as it has the potential to showcase unknown dimensions of Arini. Though of course, this will only work if director Andi Bachtiar Yusuf manages to expose who Arini is and why she works for the in Love, Inc dating website.

The film is to be released on Oct. 31. (wng)


The writer is a self-proclaimed campaigner for Indonesian submissions for the Oscars. He's currently writing one piece per day for one year, taking his cue from Julie Powell in the Julie/Julia Project. Catch him talking about movies on his Instagram account @mardian.reza

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.