I believe that great things often come in small packages, that’s why i love shorts as well. Anthologies are like a compilation of shorts with interconnecting strings or themes. Watching Sanubari Jakarta aka Jakarta Deep Down reminds me of Paris Je T’aime, because of the use of the name of the city and the anthology format. The theme, however, was quite uncommon. LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) rarely made appearance as a theme in Indonesian local cinema, i guess this mirrors our local society which still dominantly intolerant, close-minded, considering the issue as a taboo, and often give hostile response towards the theme.
Through Sanubari Jakarta, we were told 10 love stories through short films by 10 different directors within 100 minutes. Just like other Anthologies, it like a jumbled bag of Bertie-Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, for the lack of better terms, despite some odd ones you can find some pieces that are special.
One of my favorite piece was the opening segment by Tika Pramesti called Caka Mata or 1/2 (i am not sure what does “caka” means in bahasa indonesia or in english, anybody knows? or is it just an anagram for kaca mata (eye glasses)?). Anyway, this piece told us a story in a surrealist approach, there was not much dialogue, enriched only by the accompaniment of musical notes that complement the mood. We met a man named Abi was involved in two similar situations. The difference can be seen in the different nuance of the situation: in the Red filtered scene we can see him being involved with a female counterpart, while in the blue it was a male instead of a female. We can see with the female they can interact more freely, exchanging glances, touches, etc. While with the male Abi is constrained, it was a study of constrained melancholy, i actually ache when i saw it.
In these juxtaposition of images represents reality and an imagined realm, probably a wishful thinking, from Abi. The different color nuances probably represents the gender of character (the classic assumption of blue for masculine and feminine red, e.g: color-coded symbols often found in toilet signage, etc. But it also reminds me of the old anaglyph 3D glasses (remember those?). This might’ve been true, because seeing the two different nuance is like looking through the different set of lens, and i believe Abi just want a composite image of the two.
The fourth story, Kentang by Aline Jusria (and no it does not refer to kentang (potatoes) of any kind). I think the title is an acronym for kena tanggung which is used to express when something was on the cusp of climax but failed to be accomplished (and yes, this one definitely refer to a sexual innuendo). We witness a gay couple who was trying to make out but constantly interrupted by various things and ended up having a quarrel instead.
Kentang is definitely the most comedic piece of the bunch! The couple bickers, pouts, throwing cheesy one-liner and snide comments at each other was purely entertaining. The actors definitely have a good working chemistry with each other or else the constant one line bickering would loose it’s juice right away and fell flat instead. Aside from the comedy, this segment actually highlight the issue of self acceptance and obtaining courage coming out, but with the current state of intolerance that are more common in my country, like the character in this piece, they tend to decide to crawl back into the metaphorical closet.
Away from the arrays of lomographic vignettes and high-saturated colors, come “Menunggu Warna” (literaly means “Waiting for Colors“, but in this context i believe “waiting for colors (of the traffic lights)” would be more appropriate) by Adriyanto Dewo in Black/White picture. In the minimalistic approach, this segment is by far my ultimate favorite, utilizing semiotic approach to amplify its depth. A man is waiting under the traffic light, waiting for the red lights to turn green, across the street he saw his male co-worker that he was attracted to. After the lights turn green, he approach his co-worker, marking the beginning of the relationship they’re about to embark upon. As their romantic entanglement evolved, they were challenged by social stigmas and peer pressures, brought a sad end to their relationship. Suddenly the men was brought back to the moment when he was waiting for the lights.
This segment blew me away to pieces! The message was loud and clear in such a simple manner of delivery. The traffic lights that represent whether our main character should ‘stop’ or ‘go’ pursuing his attraction. The ‘imagined’ relationship was developed so sweetly only to be grounded by bitter and hard facts (again the recurring themes of LGBT works: acceptance and tolerance, or the lack of it). It was heart breaking and yet not overtly melodramatic *gasp* Brilliant! Just Brilliant!
“Kotak Coklat” (Brown Box) by Sim F was shot in a beautiful albeit overused vintage-y vignette filter which turns everything pastel but helps conveying the sweetness of the last story of the anthology. The story is about a pair of lovers Mia and Reuben. While i don’t remember the entire plot, i remember the story reveals that Mia is a M2F Transgender who were friends with Reuben since their childhood.
Other stories found within this anthology focus on other LGBT issues such as: lesbian lovers (in “Lumba-Lumba” (Dolphins) by Lola Amaria, “Terhubung” (Connected) by Alfrits John Robert, and “Pembalut” (Sanitary Napkin) by Billy Christian), F2M transexual in “Untuk A” (For A) by Fira Sofiana, a transvestite man in “Malam ini Aku Cantik” (Tonight I’m Beautiful) by Dinda Kanyadewi. Although involving a cross-dressing female, “Topeng Srikandi” (Srikandi‘s Mask) by Kirana Larasati feels as the odd one out among the bunch. Ultimately because the others focus on LGBT as sexual orientation, while in Topeng Srikandi it feels like the focus is on feminism, issues of emancipation, and gender equality.
Most of the segments in Sanubari Jakarta seems to focus on the dynamic and relationship of Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Transgender community. I wish there would be a little variety (since most are romance related thought) because i wonder what kind of LGBT community we have and how they function under the constraints of social and cultural values exists uniquely in Jakarta. While i don’t identify myself as a part of the group, i am aware that some of them are basically living in denial or hiding in plain sight, which is what i would like to know more about, but maybe that’s me asking for a documentary instead. But as an anthology film, despite the lows, there are more than several high notes in the segments worth checking out. If you are an open minded person, you probably can enjoy this movie like i do!
Sanubari Jakarta was released back in 2012 and had a very short run at our local cinema. I was fortunate to be able to catch it at Blitzmegaplex right before it ran out. Until this day i still anticipate the home media release (which i sure hope would come because i love the movie that much!).
You can watch the movie trailer here.