There is nothing ‘educational’ about educational films

10 Aug

I’ve been hearing a lot of talks lately about how films should have ‘educational values’ and how the government will support films that have the ‘right criteria’ for their upcoming projects.


What the government is really saying is this, “We want to make homogenised films like ‘Laskar pelangi’ which is safe (it’s gotta be safe when you have a bunch of kids running around right?), promotes family values,  doesn’t offend anyone, showing the carnal beauties of Indonesian islands/beaches/mountains/cultures in the hope to attract foreign tourists and emotional uplifting happy ending is required, oh don’t forget the characters must learn their lessons preferably from some wise old dude in a custom to Indonesian traditional values.” In short,  a public image propaganda.

Not from this dude but…

I don’t know about you, but Indonesian government and modern arts will never mix. As long as the government treats film as a commodity and not as a modern form of expression that reflects the conditions of its people in a realistic manners then their version of what film should be will never see eye to eye to what the version of  film should be to the real filmmakers. I fear with the success of mainstream movies such as ‘Laskar pelangi’, ‘The raid’ and ‘Ayat-ayat cinta’, filmmakers with something much more personal to say will be more marginalised than ever.

A good example is a film by a friend of mine Daniel Rudi’s ‘Prison and paradise’.

To me this is one of the best film that comes out from Indonesia. It’s not an arty farty pretentious film that is now a growing trend among  “hip” Indonesian filmmakers. No, this is something far more dangerous, primal and much better. This is a film with SOMETHING to say and it’s saying it loud, proud and clear.

That’s why the government banned it.

Even though it won international awards and been praised as an important film by many international film festivals.

Government didn’t care, not a bit.

It had a chance to be shown locally but it didn’t happen, hell it should be put on every local tv channel at the same time because this film is not afraid to confront things that scare the shit out of most Indonesian films; Islam, terrorist, religion.

I’m not gonna do a review about this film because that’s not what I’m trying to say with this article but I’m gonna make a quick summary. In a nutshell, when the first Bali bombing occured and the terrorists were caught, they got sent to local police jail while awaiting trial. All journalists, wether local or foreign tried to get an interview with Imam Samudra and co.  And all failed. Rudi, packed with a simple camera somehow got access to interview them. He got granted full access and spent quite of time with them. He captured their testimonies and started to map a story out of that.

Rudi then tried to get in touch with the terrorists families and spent some time with them, He also spent time with the victims families and tried to reunite both families for the purpose of discussion. To me the most powerful aspect of this film is not when talking to the terrorists (which in it self is quite compelling and disturbing), it’s when you see the children of both sides still playing/acting like children while oblivious to the outside world. They may not understand that their life will never be the same, they don’t even know that the world is changing and their world is changing fast and for the worse. What is the point of the attack? when the true victims are the children and their future. That’s what makes the film powerful and relevant.

The thing is the government didn’t  see it from that angle. They got scared, simple as that. They saw this film as an agent of provocateur that will divide the nation and may send Indonesia down to the toilet. I got news, we’re already knees deep in shit. There is no way to go but up and we have to crawl back up very slowly out of this mess.

My point is a film can be an agent of discussion where we share our belief and conviction to those who do not share the same view and that’s cool, that’s the point. We live in a diverse society that rules by a thin thread of acceptance/ignorance, having discussions on issues that fear us will open up possibilities in finding common ground to try to solve the problems. Instead of sweeping the issues under the bed and hoping no one will find it is the same as keeping a ticking bomb underneath your bed and we know what the outcome of that will be.

There is never in history ever recorded where a film breaks a society apart. It never happened but ignorance or lack of communication between people/lack to be heard of the dissatisfied masses have broken countries and divide people repeatedly throughout history but sadly these experiences never educate us for the better.


2 Responses to “There is nothing ‘educational’ about educational films”

  1. saksi August 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Indonesia is a large, as the trajectory of continents and oceans, great wall society it just not recorded in the history of film. We are struggling, as guerilla filmmaker, i think just the history will be answer. MERDEKAAAAA! :)))

  2. joegievano August 13, 2012 at 6:00 am #


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