Back in June, i did an LGBT blogathon by Yam-mag, where i write about selected films/tv shows that has LGBT related theme or issue. LGBT is an issue i personally feel so invested in, since i read the book relating to the issue i have a new point of view and re-assess my views about LGBT and the violent behavior towards it. It is sad that most Indonesian are still showing ignorant behavior and showing no awareness regarding the issue. I think film, in general, is a good way to educate the masses (audience). Sadly in Indonesian cinema, nods to the issue are shown merely as a stock character for comic relief instead of the highlight worthy points to ponder on. You can count the number of Indonesian LGBT films that are getting wide-release with the fingers on your hands.
So when i first heard about the movement of Indonesia Tanpa Diskriminasi (Indonesia without Discrimination) i was positively happy, because they are promoting anti-discriminative behaviour through films. The films can be seen as some sort of Public Service Announcement (PSA). But, after seeing the first one that i watched, which deals directly with sexual orientation, called Cinta Yang di Rahasiakan (Secret Love), and i was enrage. This film was produced by Denny JA and Hanung Bramantyo, adapted from a poetry by Danny JA himself .
The film told a story about Amir, religious person who has a personal struggle as he try to find peace in his belief despite his sexual orientation. Amir is in love with Bambang, his friend from high school, but his belief kept him from fully act on his feeling. Unlike Amir, Bambang is more involved with the gay circle. When his mother died and his last wish was for Amir to marry a woman, he decided to take the plunge in hoping it will eradicate his homosexual tendency. But alas, Amir’s heart yearn for Bambang and encourage him to be honest and accept himself.
In my perspective the film is suited for a closeted homosexual who haven’t come to terms with their feelings. I think its intention is to inspire them to self-acceptance instead of living a lie. Let’s not dwell on the film flaws from its acting department or the art direction (or even the gay101 that lacks of subtlety and finesse). My biggest problem came from the script of the film, which means the source material itself. The following line were uttered by the narrator from Amir point of view.
(1) Time 36’19” – 36’27”
Tak ada niat menyakitimu, sayang. Tapi hatiku tidaklah normal, apa daya…
I did not mean to hurt you, my dear. But my heart is not normal, what can i do…
(2) Time 36’28” – 36’46”
Ya Allah, kau jadikan ragaku lelaki, tapi hatiku sepenuhnya perempuan
Allah, you made me in a body of a man, but my heart is that of a woman
The first point suggest that Amir thinks his heart tendency to being gay is not normal. When you were trying to make a point where people should appreciate differences, i think it is important to show that what is different does not mean it is not normal. I think putting the emphasis that Amir felt his tendency is a form of abnormality does not inspire positive representation of gay person. When Homosexuality is found in more than 1500 species, and homophobia only found in one, which one do you think suggest normalcy and abnormality?
The second point suggest that Amir feels that he feels that his heart is that of a woman. This is odd on so many level. First, i think gay men does not identify themselves as female. By saying Amir feels like a woman for loving Bambang, it’s suggest that Amir has a transexual/transgender tendency, but if he’s a women at heart, then his orientation is not gay, he’s straight transwoman. Of course that means the whole film was misdirected when it should have focus on transgender issue, not homosexuality. I might sound like i nitpick too much on the terminology, but these terminology are key to giving the right understanding to the audience. Setting the difference between gender and sex orientation can be important as well.
With a material which sole focus to educate the audience and promoting anti-discriminating behaviour, i think starting with the right understanding of things is a crucial step to take. I believe the intention of the film maker and producer are noble, but wouldn’t it be better if it has the appropriate message.
Take Stand-Up and Irish PSA video by Anna Rodgers and Aoife Kelleher. The 5 minutes video deliver a strong narrative about promoting awareness of homophobic bullying and how people (lgbt or straight) should stand up against it. It discourage ignorance, at the same time it encourages and promote understanding and the right behaviour to adopt through a simple, yet effective manner.
I think films and videos are an effective visual aid to carry and promote certain messages. Doing it right means delivering the right message in the right way possible so it would be understood and can achieve its intended meaning. When films/videos are use to do somekind of PSA-type messages, i think it is very crucial to deliver the right message. The right message are not only the visual or saying things on screen, educating its audience about the issue at hand by putting our the right definition and create a mind frame is something that should be inevitable. By doing things right, you will be able to promote your message as well as educating the audience about the issue at hand to prevent possible misunderstanding and/or ignorance. And isn’t it should be the bottom line of it all?
Author’s note: I appreciate what Denny JA and Indonesia Tanpa Diskriminasi movement are trying to do. I support their intention. This article is simply a way to share my opinion about the content of the short film (specific to Cinta yang Dirahasiakan) that i thought was missing the marks it supposed to hit. Please do not misinterpret my intention.