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Jakarta Post

The bearable darkness of street life in '€˜Jalanan'€™

  • Andreas D. Arditya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, April 10, 2014   /  12:39 pm
The bearable darkness of street life in '€˜Jalanan'€™

Street is their playground: A still from Jalanan, a documentary that follows the lives of three street buskers for six years.

Feature-length documentary Jalanan (Streetside) takes the audience on a journey through Jakarta'€™s underbelly '€” a realm flush with the endless stream of life'€™s wastewater, yet brimming with fleeting hope and optimism.

The brainchild of filmmaker Daniel Ziv, Jalanan has been one of the most awaited films of local cinephiles since it won a Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) Mecenat Award for Best Documentary in October last year.

For the film, Ziv followed the lives of three Jakarta street buskers as they went about their daily lives and pursued happiness, in a period spanning six years.

The massive amount of footage resulted in years of filming, which was later edited by fellow filmmaker Ernest Haryanto, who brings heartfelt storytelling to documentary.

Jalanan introduces its characters one by one: Boni, Ho and Titi. The three have virtually spent their entire adult lives on the streets of Jakarta, earning dime by dime by busking.

Boni and his wife share their living quarters with other marginalized people in downtown Sudirman, located under a concrete bridge.

Boni started living on the street when he was a child, with the intention of helping his mother with daily expenses and making his own living.

He makes do with everything he has, bathing in the clean tap water he gets from rupturing a city-owned pipe, sleeping contently while the hum of the traffic is never far from his ears, and feasting his eyes on the '€œforests and hills'€ of Jakarta'€™s underground world.

Although he seems to accept the hand he has been dealt, Boni never stops looking upward in life, believing that somehow he will lift himself up and be better.

Boni'€™s busking companion is the dreadlocked Ho, who loves boasting his soulful vocal chords as walks the streets and meets people from all walks of life.

Ho gets by on little money and living quarters, but he longs for the one companion in life. Forget decent meals and comfortable beds, Ho'€™s main problems in life are his relationships, which are eternally '€œin process'€.

After numerous failed attempts at building relationships, he'€™s ready to give up.

'€œLove?'€ he questions aloud. '€œLove is lust, it'€™s mere company for sleeping together. Love is my darling, my slut.'€

The female counterpart to Boni and Ho is Titi, a woman determined to drag herself from the poverty of her village in East Java.

Titi is a divorced mother of three and lives separately from her children. She wants a better life for them, but she realizes that for this to happen she must first better herself.

Boni, Ho and Titi then are faced with making some pivotal decisions. Titi enrolls herself in a program equivalent to senior high school education to get a certificate that can allow her to apply for jobs.

Ho begins courting a widowed woman of three children who is from similar background to his.

Meanwhile, Boni'€™s castle over the canal is submerged under a flood and then a gentrification program threatens to evict his family.

Jalanan shocks and awes but does so gently, with viewers swayed by storytelling that is accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack from the buskers.

Peering into the lives of Jakarta'€™s marginalized raises the audience'€™s guard in the first minutes of the film.

Ziv, however, surprises viewers with a light and often humorous take on the journey, without belittling the formidable problems that Boni, Ho and Titi face.

Haryanto'€™s editing turned the documentary into a 108-minute stroll in the park '€” a brutally honest, raw and eye-opening park, but a stroll through it nevertheless.

Ziv wonderfully shows the enlightening wisdom of Boni, Ho and Titi '€” probably without them even realizing it. Ho'€™s straightforward approach to dating, for example, puts many of Jakarta'€™s overly dramatic love-torn urbanites to shame.

Funded through numerous grants and donations, Jalanan will be screened from today (April 10) at XXI theaters at Plaza Senayan and Blok M Square, and also at Blitz Megaplex in Grand Indonesia shopping center.

'€œThe more people come to watch the movie, the longer it stays screening and the more theaters we can show it at. I hope the film will get support,'€ Ziv said.

(108 minutes, Tema Productions)

Daniel Ziv
Cast: Bambang '€˜Ho'€™ Sri Mulyono, Boni Putera, Titi Juwariyah
Producers: Daniel Ziv, Ernest Haryanto

'€” Photos courtesy of Tema Productions

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