ictims who suffer the indignities of public humiliation are often portrayed in films as people who have everything going for them or are in a social position where they have much prestige to lose. But social abasement can affect anybody from anywhere, which is very much the point of this highly acclaimed Indonesian film.
Sur (Cinnamon) is a young woman of extremely modest means, hoping to secure a scholarship to enter a small college to fulfill her ambition as a computer technician. Her parents struggle to keep their small restaurant running. Sur’s mother has the additional task of protecting her daughter from her domineering father.
Though she is quite computer savvy, Sur is also almost as equally socially awkward. She has been effectively producing online media for a very progressive local theater group which has recently been awarded a trip to Tokyo to participate in a dramatic competition. She also does not socialize much beyond theater gatherings, so it’s really outside her character, and against her father’s wishes, that she attends a celebratory party held at the family home of the group’s popular and eccentric writer/director (Parengkuan).
The next day, Sur learns that an unflattering image of her, somehow posted on social media the night before, not only threatens her scholarship but also her family’s reputation. When her attempts to clear her name run into bureaucratic gender discrimination, Sur has no choice but to use her excellent computer skills to navigate meager resources to uncover the mystery behind who discredited her, and why.
It’s refreshing to see a film of this genre against an atypical background not often seen in Western cinema. Familiar, but well-crafted tense scenes do not upstage the unembellished local life in Jakarta’s less affluent shops, homes, and schools tonally presented by Bhanuteja and cinematographer, Gunnar Nimpuno. Juxtaposed with all of the elements of an increasingly modernized world (smart phones, web-based car services, avant-garde theater, even photocopying machines) is a portrayal of the lives of those courageously attempting to keep up with an emerging society despite the insurmountable odds.
These production choices help underscore the point that just because technology may make things in life easier, it doesn’t mean that life is easy.
Avoiding public humiliation and systemic sexual discrimination are universal endeavors, and this film serves as a reminder that information on social media can potentially alter the course of unsuspecting victims’ lives. Ironic, because these platforms, like some social institutions in place to serve its citizens, are quick to promote their reach while ignoring the negative effects on the users they claim to serve — forgetting that behind each username is a real human being.