Short films have proven an important medium for social commentary in contemporary Indonesia. As an example of the genre, this special issue of BKI presents Candra Aditya’s (2016) short film, Dewi pulang (Dewi goes home), which follows a young Javanese woman as she travels from Jakarta to her natal home in Central Java to attend her father’s funeral. A critically annotated transcript and translation of the film’s dialogue is followed by four essays on various aspects of the film and a conversation with the filmmaker. Issues addressed include the changing nature of short films and ‘indie’ cinema in post-authoritarian Indonesia; the filmmaking practices specific to Dewi pulang; the interplay of absence and presence in Dewi’s movement between Jakarta and her natal home in Central Java; and the juxtaposition of Indonesian-, English- and Javanese-language dialogue, and the forms of sociality they respectively embody. Taken as a whole, the special issue offers at once a window onto short filmmaking in Indonesia and new primary materials for further analysis.
If you want to understand Indonesia, watch short films.Indonesian film activist cited in Engchuan 2020
Candra Aditya’s short film Dewi pulang (Dewi goes home) follows a young woman as she travels from Jakarta to her natal home in Central Java to help prepare funerary rites for her father. In 18 minutes of studied realism and closely observed dialogue—in Indonesian, Javanese, and English—Candra’s film explores the profound disjoint between these two worlds, as Dewi leaves Indonesia’s cosmopolitan capital city for the slower rhythms and familial obligations of Javanese home life. As a meditation on conflicting responsibilities, desires, and aversions, Dewi pulang offers a filmic examination of the challenges that confront a growing number of young Indonesians who find themselves caught between differing ways of life—commonly, if perhaps oversimply, described as traditional and modern, rural and urban.1
First publicly screened at the Purbalingga Film Festival in 2017, Dewi pulang was produced with funding from the Pusat Pengembangan Perfilman (Pusbang), Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan Indonesia (Indonesian Culture and Education Ministry’s Centre for Motion Picture Development). The film was subsequently shown at the 2017 Singapore International Film Festival, and was one of two entries Candra submitted for the 2018 Viddsee Jury Awards, where it has since been freely available for streaming online.2 This special issue of BKI is meant to offer an introduction to the film, and to provide materials that may be used for further analysis—both as a window onto contemporary short filmmaking in Indonesia, and as a commentary on the social and cultural circumstances the film depicts.
Each of the four essays presented here addresses a different aspect of the film. Context for the essays is provided by a critically annotated transcript and translation of the film’s dialogue, and a conversation with the filmmaker, Candra Aditya. Our first essay, from Thomas Barker, situates Dewi pulang in the context of short filmmaking in post-authoritarian Indonesia. Barker’s analysis charts the changing significance of ‘indie’ cinema against the backdrop of broader trends in the recent history of Indonesian filmmaking. Rosalia Namsai Engchuan’s analysis is more tightly focused on Candra’s filmmaking, and the specific conditions under which it was possible to make a film like Dewi pulang. As Engchuan notes, to focus solely on the finished product is to overlook the complex network of agencies in play. Shifting the focus onto the film’s central problematic, Verena Meyer offers a cultural analysis of Dewi’s predicament, juxtaposing Javanese and broadly Euro-American philosophical concepts to explore the mutually constitutive relationship between various forms of absence and presence. And, finally, my own contribution examines the relationship between language and (mis)understanding, comparing the film’s use of Javanese and colloquial Jakartan Indonesian to articulate differing ways of relating to oneself and to others. Taken together with the concluding conversation with Candra, these materials are meant to model an approach to critical enquiry that is at once collaborative and open to further elaboration by others.
2 On Transcribing and Translating
The annotated transcript and translation are an important point of reference for the essays that follow. Yet they are neither intended to replace a careful viewing of Dewi pulang, nor do they presume to represent the film exhaustively. I have not, for instance, provided much detail on costume, soundtrack, and related items—though these are clearly important aspects of the film. It must also be noted that the original version of Candra Aditya’s film included English subtitles for dialogue in Indonesian, and both Indonesian and English subtitles for dialogue in Javanese. While the original subtitles are adequate for the purposes of entertainment, this retranslation is meant to facilitate critical analysis. A re-subtitled version of the film based on the new translation is available online at
As a preface to the document presented here, a few brief words on process, conventions, and terminology are in order. Although a screenplay was written for the film, Candra encouraged his actors to improvise where appropriate. As in his other films, this contributes to the natural and spontaneous appearance of the conversations depicted. But it has also occasionally resulted in someone misspeaking (line 55, for example), or their words being enunciated indistinctly—which made transcription difficult in places. The text presented here takes Candra’s own transcription as its point of departure. Popular spellings have been replaced with those more familiar in the scholarly literature. So, for instance, Paklek was replaced with Paklik; menopo with menapa; Yo piye maneh to with Ya piyé manèh ta; and so on. Several sections were revised more extensively based on a close review of the film and discussion with Javanese consultants.
Stepping back from these more technical aspects of the process, it must be borne in mind that the ‘object’ of transcription is itself theoretically fraught. I have discussed this elsewhere in relation to the analysis of Indonesian television broadcasts (2011:88–90), and so will refrain from returning to the problem here. Suffice it to say that the written representation of speech is at least partially determined by the purposes it serves;3 on review, a transcription can always be improved with reference to specific criteria. It is for similar reasons that I have used the term gloss in lieu of translation for my rendering of the film’s dialogue into English. Alternative renderings are not only possible, but also potentially desirable—depending on one’s line of enquiry.4
Very briefly, it should also be noted that Javanese terms of address and self-reference have mostly been left in the original. I have discussed a few of these terms in my contribution to the special issue (below). For reference, key untranslated terms include:
Auntie, the younger sister of a parent
Uncle, the younger brother of a parent
Term of address for a young, unmarried girl; short for gendhuk
Term of address for a younger sister or woman friend
|Mbak / Mbakyu|
Elder sister; polite term of address for a young woman
Elder brother; polite term of address for a young man
The dialogue in Indonesian is presented in regular typeface; Javanese appears in italics; and English is in boldface. This formatting also appears in the corresponding English gloss.
3 Dewi pulang: Annotated Transcript and Translation
Opening scene (0:00). A hip Jakarta café with six smartly dressed young people seated around a low table, smoking and drinking beer, cappuccinos, and juice. The opening shot frames Dèwi’s mobile phone vibrating with a call from ‘Mother’ (Ibu); she does not pick up. See Figure 1.
Kenapa lagi nyokap lo?5
What’s with yer mum this time?
Nggak. Gué rasa nih ya … mungkin nyokap gué tuh dah … pesimis banget ‘kali gué nggak dapet jodoh. Dari kemarin gué disosorin laki mulu.
Nuthin. I s’pose it’s like … I guess my mum’s just, ya know … really pessimistic maybe coz I’ve not got a boyfriend.6 I’ve been gettin’ pestered by guys non-stop.
That’s good, right?
Iya … mending yang bagus!
Yeah right … I’d prefer a good one!
Camera cuts to Dèwi’s phone, which is vibrating, with another call from ‘Mother’ (Ibu’); again, Dèwi does not pick up.
Pak,7 saya kemarin dinner … Udah kan ni … berempat ni tuh kan. Formasi-nya. Kok tiba-tiba ada kursi nambah … Siapa nih mau duduk? Trus … yaudah déh … gué diemin aja tuh … ampé tiba-tiba ada cowok nih dateng … tuk-utuk-utuk dateng duduk. Langsung salim nih sama bokap nyokap gué kan … Yaudah gué ngobrol. Sampé akhirnya gué ngobrol soal film lah nih … in general lah ya topiknya.
So, Mister, the other day I was having dinner … Everything’s ready, right … just the four of us. All set up. Then outta the blue there’s this extra chair … Who’s gonna sit there? So … alright then … I’m just quietly sitting there … till suddenly this guy shows up … knock knock knock … comes and sits down. Like straightaway kisses my parents’ hands, right?8 So alright, I chat with him. Till eventually I raise the question of film … just in general, as somethin’ to talk about.
As if speaking to the young man.
‘Film favorit lo apa?’
‘What’s yer favourite film?’
In a deeper voice, imitating him.
‘Kalau menurut saya sih, film Indonésia tuh yang paling bagus … Ayat-ayat cinta.’9
‘Well, as I see it, the best Indonesian film is … Ayat-ayat cinta.’
‘Oh, Aisyah!’, in a burlesqued passionate voice
Dia kayak Fachri ala-ala10 ‘gitu mungkin. Dia harapannya nemuin lo kayak, ‘Ah … Aisyah!’
So maybe he’s thinking he’ll be just like Fachri. He’s hoping to come up to you like, ‘Oh, Aisyah!’
Makasih lho pujiannya …
Thanks fer the compliment …
Tipis tapi ya …
Not so (different), though …11
Tapi gué sih tau diri orangnya …
Well, I know myself (and I’m not like that) …
Gesturing to the group
Tapi lo semua fix12 pasti bakal kalah kalo mau adu ribet-ribetan nyokap sama Dèwi.
But yer all sure to lose if ya try to compete with Dewi for the most troublesome mum.
Asli … Asli, asli …
True … True, true …
Tell ‘em, babe.
Jadi, kayak sekitar satu setengah tahunan yang lalu ‘gitu … gué ditelpon sama dia. Kayak gué males nih ada apa lagi nih. Yaudahlah gué angkat …
‘Kamu pulang dulu. Emergency nih.’
So, like around a year-and-a-half ago … she gave me a call. And I was kinda fed up, like, what is it this time? Anyhow, I picked up …
‘Yeah, what’s up?’
‘Come home right away. It’s an emergency.’
There’s a surprise!
Emergency-nya tuh sampé lima kali. Trus gué pulang. Nyampé rumah … tiba-tiba di kursi tamu tuh ada … ada cowok tegep banget ‘gitu badannya. Trus kayak … mukanya serius ‘gitu.
‘Bu, ini siapa?’
Ca … calon?
She said emergency like five times. So I went home. When I got there … right outta the blue, on the sofa there’s this … this guy with a totally buffed out body … had a serious look on his face.
‘Mum, who’s this?’
‘This is your suitor.’
Sa … suitor?
Dia polisi lho.
He was a policeman, y’know.
Kalo polisi tapi kan aman nggak? Aman kalo pacaran sama polisi. Hahaha, nggak …
But with a policeman yer safe, right? It’s safe if yer dating a policeman. Hahaha, right …
Camera cuts again to Dèwi’s phone, showing ‘Bapak’ (Father) calling. Satria’s voice fades out, room goes silent, to focus solely on Dèwi’s voice, speaking into the phone.
Tapi gué juga punya cerita juga tentang nyokapnya Dèwi. Jadi waktu empat tahun lalu … empat tahun lalu … kalo nggak salah, libur tahun baru … Gué dateng dong ke rumah … ke rumahnya Dèwi. Ketemu bokap nyokapnya …
But I’ve also got a story about Dèwi’s mum … So like four years ago … four years ago … if I’m not mistaken, it was the New Year’s holiday … I’d come to the house … to Dèwi’s house. To meet her parents …
Camera cuts to Dèwi, speaking into her phone
Voice in the background
Anak baik ya kan … gué dateng …
I was a good kid, right … I came …
Other voices fade out; Dèwi’s voice responds to inaudible voice on other end of the line
Nggih … Inggih … Inggih, mangké … mangké Dèwi wangsul.
Yes … Yes … Yes, right after this … I’ll come home shortly.
Voices of Satria and others fade into the background
Trus tangan gué digantung dong. Fix gué kayak orang geblek disitu yang …
So my hand was just left hanging. I sure looked like an idiot, standing there …
Lo digantungin bukan sama céwék doang ya?
So it’s not just the girls who leave you hangin’, eh?
Speaking as if to Dèwi’s unresponsive mother
‘Satria, Tante.’ Kayak ‘Satria, Tante.’ Tapi untung sama bokapnya baik.
‘I’m Satria, ma’am.’ Like, ‘I’m Satria, ma’am.’ But luckily her father’s okay.
Kalo bokapnya santai.
Her father’s chill.
Friendly lah ya.
Real friendly, ya.
What’s up, babe?
Changing tone to a quiet, steady voice.
Bapak aku meninggal.
My father has died.
Leaning forward to put an arm around Dèwi
Déw … Kapan?
Déw … When?
Changing tone back to rejoin earlier conversation, as the sound and image fade and cut to the next scene
Ya, trus-trus kayak tangannya Satria tuh …
Yeah, anyhow it was like Satria’s hand was …
Scene (2:58): Dewi seated in the back of a taxi, having arrived in her Central Javanese hometown at night. See Figure 2.
Speaking into her phone to her boyfriend, Satria
Halo? Hai. Ya, sayang. Iya nggak pa-pa kok. Lagian aku udah di jalan kan.
Hello? Hi. Yeah, babe. Yes, don’t worry. Besides, I’m already on the road.
Iya, iya …
Yes, yes …
[Hanging up the phone]
Yaudah nanti kalo aku udah sampé aku kabarin lagi ya.
Alright, later when I’m already there I’ll let you know, alright.
Okay … bye.
Okay … bye.
To the driver
Um … Mas, boléh ngerokok nggak sih?
Um … Mas, would it be alright to smoke or not?
You may, Mbak.
Scene (4:25): The next morning at Dèwi’s home. Brief exchange between two women walking down a narrow alleyway carrying baskets.
‘Sakna ya, Mbak, ya.
Poor guy, eh, Mbak.
Scene (4:30): The next morning at Dèwi’s home. Following brief shots of women working, and related domestic scenes (for instance, birds chirping in a cage), a small group of men are depicted sitting on plastic chairs in the front garden awaiting the start of funerary proceedings. See Figure 3.
Pak Susilo ninggal kok mendadak?
Pak Susilo died suddenly didn’t he?
Kayaké sih iki … lara jantung mungkin.
Sure seems like it … may’ve been a heart attack.
Ooo … Aku wingi sholat bareng Maghrib.
Oh … I’d just done evening prayers with him yesterday.
Iya, tahlil bareng, yasinan bareng … Jumatan.
Yeah, recited tahlil together, yasinan together … Friday prayers.
Scene (4:46). Women seated on the floor indoors reciting the Koran, interspersed with brief shots of flowers, coffee, and related items associated with the funerary rites. See Figure 4.
Neighbours 5 & 6
[Reciting Surah Yasin]
[Reciting Surah Yasin]13
Pak Susilo gerah ‘napa, Ibu?
What was wrong with Pak Susilo, Ibu?
Mboten ngertos, Bu.
I don’t know, Bu.
O, mesakné Pak Susilo, nggih.
Oh, yes, poor Pak Susilo.
Dangu ngentosi anaké boten wangsul … ‘napa Mbak Dèwiné ‘pun wangsul?
To wait so long with your child not coming home … has Mbak Dèwi come home yet?
She’s come back.
Scene (5:16). Dèwi rummaging through her suitcase, which is set on top of the bed in her ill-lit bedroom. See Figure 5.
Picking up her phone, responding to inaudible voice on the line
Oh, ah … thank you.
No, no. No, don’t apologize.
Yeah, yeah, yeah … I know it’s important … I’ll try to get back next Monday. And I will inform you as soon as possible.
Aha, thank you, Sir.
Oh, ah … thank you.
No, no. No, don’t apologize.
Yeah, yeah, yeah … I know it’s important … I’ll try to get back next Monday. And I will inform you as soon as possible.
Aha, thank you, Sir.
Handing change to Dèwi
‘Wi, susuké tampah.
‘Wi, the change from the tray.15
Wonten menapa, Bu?
What is it, Mother?
Dèwi’s mother comes in, sees her shoes, leaves and returns with a pair of flip-flops for her
Copot sepatumu. Nganggo iku waé ning omah. Tulung Ibu … golèkké jarik kagem bapakmu.
Take off your shoes. Just wear these when you’re at home. Give me a hand … find me a batik cloth for your father.
Buk, buk … Minggu mbengi bibar pitung-dinananné Bapak, Dèwi langsung teng bandara … nggih, Buk? Mobilipun Paklik … mboten diagem toh?
Mum, Mum … Sunday night after the seventh-day ceremony for Dad,16 I’m going straight to the airport … alright, Mum? Uncle’s car … won’t be in use, right?
Soal kuwi mengko waé …
Nèk ning omah kuwi, sepatuné dicopot. Angèl ngepèlé.
We’ll discuss it later …
When you’re in the house, take off your shoes. It’s hard to mop up.
Scene (6:52): Dèwi enters her mother’s room; her mother is waiting for her, seated with poise on the edge of a large bench. See Figure 6.
With increasing distress, losing patience with Dèwi
Coba jukukké jarik sing nèng lemari ndhuwur …
Dudu sing kuwi, ndhuk …
Éh, dudu sing iki … Iki sangka Rama ming nggo aku. [Sigh.] Ndhuk, apa kowé lali karo jarik sing wektu iku wis tak wanti-wanti kudu dijaga. Kowé ki piyé, ta? Kok ra ngerti-ngerti? [Sigh.]
Lahhh … iki jarik sing tak karepké.
Could you grab the batik at the top of the wardrobe …
Not that one, ndhuk …
Hey, not this one … This was from Grandfather just for me.17 [Sigh] Ndhuk, have you forgotten the batik I kept telling you had to be taken care of. What’s going on with you? Why don’t you get it? [Sigh.]
Here … this is the batik I meant.
Lha nèk Ibu sampun pirsa, nèng apa njaluk Dèwi sing njikukké?
Well, if you already knew, why’d you ask me to get it for you?
Dèwi … Paklik Bèthèt ditimbali. Wis kudu siap nyirami Bapak.
Dèwi! Sandalmu nèng endi?
Dèwi … call Uncle Bèthèt. It’s time to bathe your father.18
Dèwi! Where are your flip-flops?
Scene (8:13). Dèwi is standing alone behind the house wearing a loose headscarf; her auntie (Bulik) comes along just as Dèwi is taking out a cigarette for a furtive smoke. See Figure 7.
Lho, ‘Wi!? Dèning kowé ora mèlu ngeteraké bapakmu?
What, Dèwi!? Why didn’t you join them to take your father (to the cemetery)?
Boten, Bulik. Saweg alangan, dados … boten saged tumut.
No, Auntie. I’m on my period, so …. I couldn’t join them.19
Oalah, ndhuk … mesakaké kowé. Dèning barengan karo pas bapakmu pas ora ana … dadi kowé ora bisa ngeteraké, ya?
My goodness, ndhuk … you poor thing. Coming right when your father’s passed away … so you can’t take him (to the cemetery), eh?
Mau ya ora mèlu brobosan?
Didn’t join ‘em earlier for the brobosan, either?20
[Dèwi shakes her head]
[Dèwi shakes her head.]
Mesakaké banget kowé, ndhuk. Ya muga-muga waé bapakmu … nang kana ora kakéan pikiran, ya?
Oh you poor, poor thing, ndhuk. Well, let’s just hope your father … his thoughts aren’t unduly burdened up there, eh?
Scene (8:50). Camera cuts to a laptop screen with an Excel spreadsheet labelled ‘List of Outgoings for Burial’ (I. Daftar Pengeluaran untuk Pemakaman); the camera then cuts to Dèwi sitting on her bed with the laptop, listening to the conversation in the next room.
Ning untung ya, Buk … Dèwiné gèk cepet mulih. Mesakké tenan, lho … anak gur siji-sijiné.
But sure is lucky, Bu … Dèwi came home right away. Would’ve been such a pity … with just the one child.21
Alhamdulilah, Jeng … Dèwi wis isa bantu-bantu. Omah iki ya Dèwi kabèh sing ngurusi. Ah … sakjané aku ki ya mesakké … merga bapaké ra isa ngeterké Dèwi nganti omah-omah.
Thank God, Jeng … now Dèwi can help out. This house, it’s Dèwi who’s managed it all. [Sigh] Truth is I’m the one who’s feeling bad … coz her father can’t see her through till she settles down.22
Onscreen: Dèwi is putting on her headphones
Ya piyé manéh ta, Mbakyu? Wong pancèné wis diparingi ngèné karo Gusti Allah. Sing penting Dèwiné gèk séhat, seger …
But what more can be done, Mbakyu? Indeed, it’s been handed down like this by God.23 What’s important is that Dèwi soon gets well, and healthy …
Onscreen: Music cuts in from Dèwi’s headphones
Ning ya tetep …
Yes but still …
Dèwi’s uncle comes to the bedroom door
Dèwi removes her headphones
Ibumu ‘ki njaluk tuku wedhus lho, Ndhuk.
Your mother’s asked to buy a goat, ndhuk.
Damel napa ta?
What’s it for?
Ya, gawé telung-dinanan bapakmu ‘suk mbèn. Kowé ki ngerti dhèwé lah, ‘Wi. Ngendikané Rama. Supaya bapakmu ki padhang dalané.
Oh, it’s for your father’s third-day ceremony, coming up. You know that, ‘Wi. It’s Grandfather’s orders. So your father has a clear path ahead.24
Reaching into her wallet to look for money, then handing over the card with her PIN
Dèwi mboten wonten cash hé Paklik.
Niki … sampun Dèwi catet PIN-é teng mriku.
I don’t have any cash, Uncle.
Here … I’ve written down my PIN just there.
Taking the card
O … ya, ya, ya.
O, Wi, mengko kamaré bèn si Aji waé sing mbèrèsi, ya? Barang-barang disèlèh mburi waé.
Oh … okay, okay, okay.
Oh, ‘Wi, later just let Aji tidy up the room, ya? This stuff can just be moved to the back.
Lah? Piyé toh? Jaré ibukmu kowé iki arep manggén nèng kéné sampék patang-puluh dina lho.
Eh? Whaddya mean? Y’know, your mum said you were gonna stay here till ‘the fortieth-day’.25
Scene (10:39). Brief sequence of shots from a simple or ‘traditional’ kitchen: chopping and frying chillies and shallots; woman blowing on a wood fire.
[Women conversing; inaudible]
[Women conversing; inaudible]
Scene (10:52). Dèwi enters her mother’s room, the camera cutting briefly to a framed photograph of her father accompanied by a glass of coffee, cakes, cigarettes, and fruit, with a small glass containing flowers in water. Her mother is seated looking at a large book.
Jarému, foto sing ‘ndi sing apik, Wi, ‘nggo telung-dinané Bapak?
In your view, ‘Wi, which photo’ll be good for Father’s third-day ceremony?
Buk, Dèwi badhé matur.
Mum, I have something to say.
Camera cuts to Dèwi covering her tattoo with her shirt sleeve
Klambimu kuwi dibenakké … gambaré kétok.
Fix that shirt of yours … the drawing is showing.26
Bu, menapa ta, Bu, Ibu sanjang kalih Paklik lan wong-wong liyané nèk Dèwi bakalan tinggal teng ngriki tekan patang-puluh dinané Bapak?
Mum, why is it, Mum, that you told Uncle and everyone else that I would be staying here until Father’s fortieth-day ceremony?
Ndhuk, apa kowé ra mesakké karo bapakmu mengko?
Ndhuk, won’t you feel pity for your father later?
Bapak ki sampun mboten wonten lho, Bu. Apa malih ingkang dimesakaké?
Father is no longer here—is he, Mum. What’s left to pity?
Bapakmu kuwi jik nèng omah nganti patang-puluh dina, Ndhuk. Apa kowé téga ninggalké bapakmu menéh? Kok kowé ra ngerti-ngerti ta?
Your father will still be in the house for forty days, ndhuk. Are you so heartless as to walk out on your father again? Why don’t you get it?
Emotion-stirring music rises in the background
Ibuk naté, Buk, sepisan mawon ngertèkké pentingé kerjaan Dèwi? Kaping pinten ta, Bu, Dèwi kudu matur nèk Dèwi boten saged Dèwi tinggal néng kéné nganti patang-puluh dinané bapak. Lha wong Dèwi ‘é ya boten tau protés wektu Ibuk sanjang tumbasaké mendha lah, menapa lah, kagem telung-dinané Bapak … miturut Rama. Nanging sekedhik mawon, Bu … Dèwi njaluk tulung … ngertèkké Dèwi.
Have you ever, Mum, just once tried to understand how important my work is to me? How many times, Mum, do I have to say I can’t stay here till father’s fortieth-day ceremony? Y’know I never objected when you told me to go buy a goat, to buy whatever, for Father’s third-day ceremony, as Grandfather said. But even just a little, Mum … please … try to understand how I feel.
Kowé iki sakjané … sayang apa ora karo Bapakmu?
Do you actually … love your father or not?
‘Pun ngètén mawon lah, Buk, Dèwi gawé gampang. Sésuk Dèwi balik nèng Jakarta. Lha wong apa sing Dèwi lakokaken ya tetep salah ta miturut Ibuk?
It’s like this, Mum, I’ll make it easy. Tomorrow I’m going back to Jakarta. After all, whatever I do is still gonna be wrong in your eyes, isn’t it Mum?
Scene (12:56). Dèwi is lying on the bed in her dimly-lit room, texting on her mobile phone. Her uncle sits at the edge of the bed smoking, facing away from Dèwi. A full ashtray sits between them. See Figure 8.
Call to prayer audible as Paklik is speaking to Dèwi
Ibumu ki ra duwé maksud ala lho, ‘Wi … Ya kowé iki sing kuduné isa ngerténi dhewéké. Wong ya ibumu ki wis sepuh …
Y’know, your mum doesn’t have bad intentions, ‘Wi … you’re the one who’s gotta try to understand her. After all, your mum’s getting old …
He takes out a letter and gives it to her, his voice trailing off as he drags on his cigarette
Cobak … nék kowé wis mbalik néng Jakarta, ibukmu rak dhéwéan ta? Kowé ki pernahé anak … kuduné isa luwih sabar. Ora usah mélu-mélu emosi. Iya-ni waé. Supaya ibumu ki ora kakéan pikiran …
Look … if you go back to Jakarta, your mum’ll be on her own, won’t she? You’re the child here … you’ve gotta be more patient. Don’t give in to your emotions. Just do as yer told … so your mum’s thoughts aren’t unduly burdened.
Uncle gets up and leaves the room; Dewi reads the letter from her father, with call to prayer and ticking clock in the background
Bapakmu ki nulis layang kanggo kowé. Rencanané ki dikirim minggu wingi. Ning ya … Bapakmu haaa … ki wis keburu …
Your father wrote a letter to you. He was planning to send it last week. But then … your father … [sigh …] all too quickly …
Dèwi holds the letter to her face and cries
Scene (15:09). Evening. Camera cuts to Dèwi’s feet in a pair of flip-flops as she approaches and then stands in the doorway leading out to a small yard behind the main house. Dressed more plainly than before, with her hair up, Dèwi approaches her mother, who is seated on a low bamboo bench behind the house grating coconut. Dèwi comes and sits beside her to help with the grating. See Figure 9.
Dèwi goes out back, wearing flip-flops, to help her mother grate coconut
Buk, fotoné Bapak kagem telung-dinané sésuk, ngagem sing wonten Borobudur mawon, nggih Buk. Mangké Dèwi njaluk tulung Paklik Bèthèt cetakké, kalih tumbas pigurahné.
Dèwi boten janji, nggih, Bu … nék Dèwi saged tinggal teng ngriki ngantos patang-puluh dinané bapak. Nanging Dèwi saged mastékaken, Buk … nék Dèwi pasti wangsul sakdéréngé acara patang-puluh dinané Bapak.
Mum, the photo of Dad for the third-day ceremony tomorrow, let’s just use the one at Borobudur, okay Mum? Later I’ll ask for Uncle Bèthèt’s help to print it, and buy the frame.
I won’t promise, okay, Mum … that I can stay here till Father’s fortieth-day ceremony. But I can assure you, Mum … that I’ll definitely return home before the fortieth-day event for Father.
My thanks to all of those who reviewed and commented on the transcript and translation—including Candra Aditya, Thomas Barker, Rosalia Namsai Engchuan, Verena Meyer, Judith Fox, Joseph Errington, and the three anonymous reviewers for BKI. A special debt of gratitude is owed to Amnina Fira Kharira and Yosephin Apriastuti Rahayu, who read and discussed the full transcript and translation with me in detail. Any remaining errors, oversights, and infelicities are my own.
There is a growing body of scholarship on responses to conflicting ideals for romantic intimacy, personal fulfilment, and collective life in Indonesia (see, for example, Smith-Hefner 2007, 2019; Parker and Nilan 2013; Utomo et al. 2016; Fox 2020). Meyer’s contribution to this issue addresses the topic with specific reference to the film’s thematic interplay between tropes of absence and presence. My own contribution explores how the resulting tensions are embodied in the use of language.
So, for instance, although the film’s characters speak Javanese in a variety of sub-regional styles and ‘accents’, the transcript presented below would be useless for a comparative phonological analysis. Similarly, a phonetic transcription of the film’s dialogue would prove unwieldy—and potentially misleading—for those pursuing non-phonological lines of enquiry.
Elsewhere I have addressed the theoretical grounds for this statement in detail, with specific reference to the translational movement between Sanskrit, Balinese, Indonesian, and English (Fox 2018:153–72).
Lo. = (e)lu. On the use of first- and second-person pronouns in colloquial Jakartan Indonesian, see Sneddon 2006:59–62 (gua/gué), 64–6 (elu/lu/lo).
Jodoh. More than simply a boyfriend (I. pacar), the term jodoh here points to a relationship eventuating in marriage.
See my contribution to this special issue (below) on the burlesqued formality in Agnes’s use of Pak and saya.
Langsung salim. The phrase marks Agnes’s surprise that the young man seemed to know her parents in making this familiar yet deferential greeting (salim) that one would make to a teacher or figure of similarly intimate authority.
Ayat-ayat cinta (Bramantyo 2008). Alicia Izharuddin (2017:31–2) has noted that ‘[t]he meteoric rebirth of [Islamic cinema] during the post-New Order period precipitated by [the film] Ayat-ayat cinta signaled the culmination of Islamisation of Indonesian popular culture’. Candra’s film offers an alternative perspective on Islamic pop culture in Indonesia; compare the treatment of Ada apa dengan Cinta 2 (Riza 2016) in another of his short films, Desire (discussed in Fox 2020).
Ala-ala. Indonesian appropriation of (English use of?) the French à la, as in ‘he’s doing such-and-such à la Fachri’.
The joke is implicit and teasingly sarcastic, suggesting there is but a ‘slight’ (tipis) difference between the pious character from the film Ayat-ayat cinta (Aisyah) and Agnes herself, who, for instance, is depicted here smoking and drinking in the company of young men.
Fix. Here the English loanword fix roughly approximates the more standard Indonesian pasti/yakin (compare line 26).
The Surah Yasin is commonly recited during funerary rites.
Note the shift in register from krama to ngoko. According to Candra, the actor probably misspoke. She did not regularly speak Javanese, and so had to be taught her lines.
A tampah (or panampan) is a woven tray often used to hold offerings (sajèn); Dèwi’s uncle is returning the change having purchased the tray with money Dèwi had given him.
Seventh-day ceremony. For general notes on funerals and mortuary rites in Java, see Koentjaraningrat 1985:361–7.
The honorific reference to Dewi’s grandfather as Rama (J. ‘father’), and the placement of his photo in each room, suggests he is (was?) one of those ambiguously powerful persons—healers, sorcerers, prognosticators—commonly referred to as orang pintar. On enquiring, Candra confirmed the intimation was deliberate.
The reference to bathing (J. nyirami) refers to pre-burial washing of the corpse.
This phrase (J. saweg alangan, I. sedang halangan) is a common euphemism for menstruation. This would preclude participation in her father’s funerary rites, though Aunty does not appear entirely convinced by Dewi’s claim.
On brobosan death rites, see Koentjaraningrat 1985:363.
In other words, it would have been ‘such a pity’ (J. mesakké tenan) if her one and only child did not come home when Bapak died.
This references the role of a woman’s father as a witness or representative (wali) on her wedding day.
Wis diparingi ngèné karo Gusti Allah. Note the suggestion that their circumstances are predetermined as ‘given’ or ‘handed down’ (J. diparingi) by God; see Meyer’s contribution to this special issue for further discussion.
Padhang dalané. This line refers to a ‘clear’ or ‘bright path’ that, at least in Islamic circles, might be understood as leading through alam barzah (or alam kubur) as an interstitial space between this world (alam dunia) and the hereafter (alam akhirat). For a contemporary filmic depiction, see Joko Anwar’s Grave torture.
Patang-puluh dina. See note 16, above.
Dèwi’s mother refers elliptically to her yin-yang tattoo as a ‘drawing’ or ‘picture’ (gambar). On reviewing these lines, one of my Javanese consultants suggested this might be to avoid others overhearing reference to her daughter having a tattoo, which could be seen as improper—and so potentially an embarrassment to the family, at least from her mother’s perspective. To use the term tattoo might also confer a recognition of its legitimacy, as opposed to a more disapproving reference to ‘that picture (on your arm)’.
Aditya, Candra (dir.) (2016). Desire. Jakarta: Sinemasochist.
Anwar, Joko (dir.) (2012). Grave torture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjlfLekc6Hs (accessed 7 August 2020).
Bramantyo, Hanung (dir.) (2008). Ayat-ayat cinta. Jakarta: MD Pictures.
Engchuan, Rosalia Namsai (2020). ‘A political dance in the rain: Queer short film in Indonesia and the cinematic creation of social and material spaces for argument’, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 176–1:7–36.
Fox, Richard (2011). Critical reflections on religion and media in contemporary Bali. Leiden and Boston: Brill. [Numen Series in the History of Religions 130.]
Fox, Richard (2018). More than words: Transforming script, agency and collective life in Bali. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Fox, Richard (2020). ‘Screening piety, class, and romance in Indonesia: Scenes from an argument already well underway’, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 176–1:70–104.
Izharuddin, Alicia (2017). Gender and Islam in Indonesian cinema. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.
Koentjaraningrat (1985). Javanese Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Parker, Lyn and Pam Nilan (2013). Adolescents in contemporary Indonesia. New York: Routledge.
Riza, Riri (dir.) (2016). Ada apa dengan Cinta 2. Jakarta: Miles Films, Legacy Pictures & Tanakhir Films.
Smith-Hefner, Nancy J. (2007). ‘Youth language, gaul sociability, and the new Indonesian middle class’, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 17–2:184–203.
Smith-Hefner, Nancy J. (2019). Islamizing intimacies: Youth, sexuality, and gender in contemporary Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Sneddon, James Neil (2006). Colloquial Jakartan Indonesian. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies: The Australian National University.
Utomo, Ariane J., Anna Reimondos, Iwu D. Utomo, Peter F. McDonald and Terence H. Hull (2016). ‘Transition into marriage in Greater Jakarta: Courtship, parental influence, and self-choice marriage’, Southeast Asia Research 24–4:492–509.