[Review] Jalanan

Brutally honest.

If you want to see the real Jakarta, you definitely have to watch this movie. It was the truth, the bittersweet rollercoaster lives of street buskers – as seen from the perspectives of Boni, Ho, and Titi. They struggled to just keep moving on, even when it seemed that the whole universe was against them.

Having Filmed for more than five years, Canadian director Daniel Ziv beautifully captured the spirits of the young buskers who, in their productive age, had to live in the streets because they couldn’t get proper jobs for their lack of education.

Titi for example. Born as the youngest child in a village of Ngawi, East Java, her parents couldn’t afford to get her into secondary school. Gutted, she went to Jakarta with her neighbour to do whatever she could to help her poor parents.

Boni on the other hand, has been busking since he was eight years old. Grown up in Jakarta’s “Bronx” area of Galur, Boni made his own “tambourine” using bottle caps nailed to a piece of wood. Tired of busking, he tried to sell newspapers, and later, cigarettes, before he finally got his own guitar. He left school when he was in third grade, and has been living in the streets ever since.

Ho was probably the one who stood out most, in a way that he was both the yin and the yang – from his performance and appearance he seemed to be the stereotype of the rough, social outcast, but once he found the right girl, he was desperately romantic. Ho’s original name was Bambang Sri Mulyono, a very Javanese name, as he was originally from Purworejo. His lyrics were provocative, speaking out the bitter truth of the politics in Indonesia. He sang emotionally, sometimes in a rather angry tone, representing the tiredness of Indonesian people of all the bullshit the officials came up with. However, at the end of the story he finally found his love and showed a much softer side of his personality underneath all the dreaded hair and the wrinkled t-shirt.

For me, the best thing about Jalanan was its humble, down-to-earth but extensive approach to their ‘actors’, portraying the daily problems of the marginalised groups. It was just like an actual window to Jakarta, far away from all the mansions and the posh cars often featured in the local soaps (sinetron).

I also like how the three ‘real actors’ developed as they tried to get a better life for them and their families. Titi took an equivalency exam so that she could get a better job, Ho married a widow and finally settled down, and Boni had to leave his home in the gutter (he literally lived in the gutter, ‘facilitating’ himself with the clean water that was leaking from a pipe) and found a more permanent housing. There were no scenarios, so I bet it took a lot of time and patience to finally have the story meet its climax.

Technically speaking, the sound editing was awesome. I mean, I used to secretly record street buskers on the buses and man, there was just too much noise I barely heard them singing. But all the sounds in the movie were so clear it was as if they were actually dubbed. Salute to Daniel Ziv and his crew.

The songs used in the movies were all written by the actors themselves. And they were no ordinary street songs, they did not sound like they were written by street buskers who did not even graduate from high school. Moreover, Boni was illiterate so he merely depends on his memories.

Anyway, I also read on Ziv’s twitter that the raw material was 250 hour long. That would take 10,5 days to watch from start to finish. It was thanks to Ernest Hariyanto, an award-winning documentary producer/editor/writer, who helped Ziv to cut it down to merely two hours.

However, I was slightly disappointed that the movie was mostly shot in Central and East Jakarta, which is more of the place for the riches and the inhabitants had been widely covered by the media. But yes, I must admit that it must be difficult to bring all the equipment to the ‘less safe’ parts of Jakarta, especially when you are a ‘bule’ (local slang for Caucasians).

But overall, I was so happy to finally watch this movie. It even made it to the national cinemas in three cities! Even better, the screening which was planned to be only for four days (from Thursday 10th of April to Sunday 13th of April), was extended for the next two weeks.

Again, congratulations to Daniel Ziv. Can’t wait to have it on DVD.

ps: For more info about the movie, go to their website: http://www.jalananmovie.com/

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