Sokola Rimba (2013)

Education is a right, not a privilege.

Even though i am an Indonesian and i still live there. But i very rarely watch local films. Because most of the title that got wide released in movie theaters are bad commercial works which belong to TV soaps, comedy porn, or horror porn. Sure, indie scene probably had more gems amongst them, but you either catch it in a festival or very limited screening. Once in a blue moon local director would produce a film that should be seen but never really garnered mass, commercial appeal, like Mouly Surya’s What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love or Teddy Soeriaatmadja’s Lovely Man.
So i was so thrilled when i saw Mira Lesmana and Riri Riza (who worked together in ‘Petualangan Sherina‘), have a film came out last month (though i only manage to see it a few days ago). The film titled Sokola Rimba. Sokola means ‘school’ in the language of Orang Rimba, a local, isolated tribe in Jambi, Indonesia. Rimba itself means jungle, although in this context it could also refer to the Rimba people. The film is an adaptation from a memoir of Butet Manurung, an environmental and educational activist for the rights of education for the isolated tribe all over Indonesia through Long before that, Butet spend 4 years living in the deep forrest of Bukit Duabelas National Park, Jambi, teaching the kids of Orang Rimba them how to read and simple maths.
Butet Manurung (Prisia Nasution) must trekked through the densely wooded area of to reach the living area of the nomadic tribe Orang Rimba, on the upstream of Makekal river. When she passed out due to exhaustion, she was saved by Bungo, a boy coming from the tribe living in the downstream area, 7-hour walk away from her place at the upstream commune. Butet noticed the boy often stood and watch as she taught the kids alphabet and maths from afar. Butet intend to teach the tribe at the downstream area, much to her boss’ spite for disrupting the organization’s value and objectives and the causing a stir of disagreement among the downstream tribe as well. Bungo still wanted to learn and Butet wanted to help him too, but when traditional and modern values started to collide, some tough choices must be made.
The film is shot in gorgeous cinematography. Lushes greeneries of the jungle clashes with the barren fields left by illegal loggers. Macro shots of textures of the wood and habitants enriches the film. While i feel some of the moments, especially the ones out of the jungle were overly dramatized and just seemed cheap, i can overlook since in the end the strength of the message remains unflappable. I love how they use the local languages and even though the film is well styled and polished still have a raw element to it. There’s sincerity in the performance of the indigenous people, something true that can not be faked. Prisia Nasution is one of Indonesia’s best actress, and her performance here is good and well balance against the boys innocence. Nyungsang Bungo, like Beindah and Nengkabau and other indigenous Orang Rimba involved in the film fill the screen with their natural charm. I love how Riri captured the habits and lifestyle of these indigenous tribe and how they interact with their environment and nature. I always love to learn about the tradition and i’m a firm believer in indigenous wisdom, i think they have a much better understanding of how balanced ecosystem supposed to works, and this film observe a lot of these aspects without crossing the border of it being a documentary.
At the very end i think Sokola Rimba manage to do what it supposed to do. For me personally, Butet’s courage is inspiring, the clash between tradition and changes made us think about our own choices and belief not only for the environment but in almost anything. It might not be a great film per se, but it delivers a potent message and it is imperative for a lot of people to see and understand.


GENRE Biopic, Drama 
DIRECTOR Riri Riza | PRODUCER Mira Lesmana | WRITER Riri Riza | MUSIC Aksan Sjuman | CINEMATOGRAPHER Gunpar Nimpuno | EDITOR W. Ichwandiarno | STUDIO Miles Films | DISTRIBUTOR Visi Lintas | COUNTRY Indonesia | RUNNING TIME 92 minutes | RELEASE November 21, 2013 (ID)
STARRING Prisia Nasution, Nyungsang Bungo, Beindah, Nengkabau

Stills are from screen captured from Trailer | Theme Song | Official Blog

Learn more about Sokola from their website | @RumaSokola

English version of Butet Manurung’s Sekola Rimba (Jungle School) book is available on Amazon.


DID YOU KNOW? The indigenous people involved in this film were not paid with money. Instead they were given things that are valuable to them, such as cloths and other things.


3 thoughts on “Sokola Rimba (2013)

  1. Pingback: Event: Indonesian Film Directors Club 2014, Discussion & Awards Ceremony | KaramelKinema

  2. Pingback: Event: Indonesian Film Directors Club 2014, Discussion on ‘Jejak Penyutradaraan Film Indonesia’ | KaramelKinema

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