Through Film, a Light on Lombok’s Sasak Culture
The local film industry is Jakarta-centric, according to I Made Rethuyana, the director of Lombok’s local television channel TV9. But he’s trying to change that.
Made, who was born in Bali but now does business in Java, recently produced “Perempuan Sasak Terakhir” (“The Last Sasak Women”). The film, which is Sandi Amaq Rinjani’s directorial debut, is 110 minutes long and opens in local movie theaters next week.
The story begins with Ryan (Edwin Sukmono), who grew up in Jakarta but whose family is part of Lombok’s Sasak tribe. In Jakarta, he was supported by his uncle, but due to financial troubles he returns to Lombok, were he meets two neighbors with very different values: Wati, who wears modern clothes and values global pop culture, and Anjani, who wears traditional Lombok outfits and values her own culture.
Struggling to understand his roots, Ryan sets out on a two-week road trip through Lombok with his dad, learning more about loving his homeland along the way. Meanwhile, Wati meets a city man who proposes and promises her a modern wedding in the village, while Anjani lives with her sick father and teaches children there.
The local spirit of Lombok shines through in the film, but unfortunately, the plot was rather unpredictable.
“The Last Sasak Women” is a debut not only for the director, but also for the main actors and Made, who said at the press screening in Jakarta on Thursday that he did not have prior experience in film production.
Ninety percent of the cast and crew were locals from Lombok, he added. In fact, Edwin was the only cast member from Jakarta. Made said the project was idealistic and keeping it local was a must.
As such, the film features elements of Sasak culture and many of Lombok’s traditional performances. It highlights the loss of identity and calls for more attention for the island.
Sandi, who is part of Lombok’s Sasak tribe himself, said he had merely been unlucky for not getting as many chances in film production as others in Jakarta. So after studying film television at the Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ), he was determined to make a film about Lombok.
Despite the idealistic goals, the film comes up short in a few ways. Sandi, who also wrote the script, included too many repetitive and unnecessary scenes. The dialogue was often preachy, while the good and bad characters were crystal clear from the beginning. Sandi said the script was partly inspired by the French film “Le Grand Voyage,” which is about a young French-Moroccan man who drives his father to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Made and Sandi said “The Last Sasak Women” won’t be their last film, so there’s a chance for future improvement.
Made dreams of providing more job opportunities to youths in Lombok in all fields, including the film industry. He plans to open a new film school on the island to get the creative and economic wheels turning.