Abam (Indra Birowo) a security guard goes to his cramped home after a tiring night shift. In their humble bedroom are LPG tanks. He sees his wife Nur (Widi Mulia) breastfeeding their infant son and could not control himself, “Let’s make love… it’s been a week.” Nur has been trying to pacify their baby who has been crying non-stop. She responds, “Do you think it’s only you who need it? Help me calm your child.” Abam carries the baby and sings a lullaby which miraculously works. After a few minutes he lays the baby on the crib carefully making sure not to wake him.
As he climbs on to bed he accidentally bumps LPG tanks surrounding them making-clanging noises. They panic looking at the baby who somehow still sleeps. Abam positions himself carefully and finally kisses Nur. Just then from their window they hear the Maghrib call for prayer. Abam’s mother in law barges into their bedroom pulling the couple and infant for the prayer.
“Jakarta Maghrib” (Jakarta Twilight) is part of the free screenings of critically acclaimed Asian films at Shangri-La Plaza, from May 17 to 21 at the Shang Cineplex. It is one of 2 Indonesian films at the “The Asia as Our Society Film Festival” organized by the Asia Society Philippine Foundation and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP). Film entries from China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and of course, the Philippines, will be screened during the festival.
The festival opens with a film from the Philippines, Dinig Sana Kita, by Mike Sandejas which screens on May 17, 7:30pm. Witness the unfolding of a one-of-a-kind love story between a deaf boy and a troubled rocker girl. The film Halaw, by Sheron Dayoc screens on May 21, 8pm.
“Maghrib” is the debut film of screenwriter Salma Aristo. “Laskar Pelangi” (Rainbow Warriors) a film that he wrote is one of the biggest Indonesian Box office and critical successes in recent years. “Laskar Pelangi” is the other Indonesian film that can be seen also for free at the “The Asia as Our Society Film Festival” in Shang Cineplex.
From the outside, Indonesia seems like a traditional Muslim state. But in the film ‘Jakarta Maghrib’ we see the hustle and bustle of modern life that is slowly pushing out traditions and religiosity. The film is divided into five chapters of seemingly disparate characters. In the end these characters somehow meet at a crossroads of their lives.
Maghrib is the Muslim prayer immediately after sunset. According to Indonesian Emb. Social and Cultural Counsellor Ahimsa Soekartono, tradition has it that during this time they either go home or to the mosques to pray. Increasingly the activities in the lives of Jakarta residents take them away from this important religious tradition.
Filipinos will see a lot of similarities with their Indonesian brothers whether in the pace in life or the food and activities that now take higher priority. The Angelus here was also an early evening prayer that used to be a habit of many Catholic families. It has long given way to the stressful lives of Pinoys who are now obsessed with facebook, Twitter, American Idol and many other modern distractions.
In the chapter ‘Story of Ivan’ takes place in a video game rental shop. Ivan (Aldo Tansani) skips school to play there only to find each unit occupied. He gives other kids a scare for not attending Maghrib. He tells them that the Kuntilanak will get them. It is a ghost like creature that is similar to the ‘White Lady’ stories here. The Sony Play Station rental shops are just as ubiquitous in Manila as it is in Jakarta.
In the Waiting for Aki chapter, neighborhood customers unintentionally converge in their village park. In spite of having lived there for years, they only meet when the man they rely on for cooked food doesn’t show up. It also reveals the apathy of the residents and refusal to solve the problems of their community.
Aki (Kidaus) is a nasi goreng or fried rice vendor who delivers and sells his food via a cart. Filipinos also have a number of fried rice dishes but is usually sold at 24hour places that sell tapsilog an acronym for tapa (dried beef), sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (egg).
The more we watch films from Indonesia, the more we see similarities and bonds with our close neighbors. This is the goal of the “The Asia as Our Society Film Festival” which also features rare gems from Vietnam, Laos and Sri Lanka. To quote FDCP chairman Briccio Santos we find a vibrant “window to these cultures” we don’t often see. Or the more popular Korean, Japanese and even Chinese films not only entertain us but also educate us about their history. The free screenings is almost like traveling abroad for free only quicker and with less hassle.