More than just entertainment, some movies are made to tell certain moving stories and inspires people. Mimpi Anak Pulau is one of them, aiming to tell a heartening story about one of the first three university graduate from Batam. But movies that set out to do such thing had a fair chance of ending up as “preaching”. Especially in the eyes of skeptics, like yours truly.
Thankfully, Mimpi Anak Pulau stayed clear from preaching and was as straightforward as it could be.
In a small village at the coast of Batam, little Gani Lasa or formerly known as Jani (Daffa Permana) lived in poverty with his father Lasa (Ray Sahetapy), his mother Rubiah or Ndok (Ananda Faturrahman) and his brothers and sisters. They don’t have much, but they’re content with what they have.
But when Lasa died, Jani’s dream to pursue a higher education (and to buy a pair of shoes) seems like an even more pipe dream than it already is…
One of the first thing that strikes me upon watching this movie is how honest it actually is. It can’t hide that it’s mean to “inspire”, that it wants to spark a change of heart and encourage people to pursue their dreams, but it does so without being pretentious. It’s a dramatization of Gani’s life, sure, but it’s not over the top. And as far as I know, life was actually that hard for them. Which brings me to why I think Mimpi Anak Pulau actually get it right: it’s relatable. Despite being set decades back, in the years when you can still hear President Soekarno’s speeches in an antique radio, it still undeniably resonate with current situation. Instead of a simple inspirational movie, it ends up as an unsettling social commentary about life and (lack of) education in the borderline area.
Because that, more or less, is the current situation in our borderline area. Batam was lucky enough as one of the entry point to Singapore and other neighboring country, leading to both economic and infrastructure development. But our other borders, those which are less of a lucrative economic market, are still struggling. Struggling to reach decent economic stability, with even bigger struggle to educate themselves and their children. Those pictures and reports about kids walking miles and crossing near-nonexistent bridges just to go to school are not exaggerated, you know. Nor are reports about schools with only one teacher to teaches all classes, or elementary schools being the only form of education available in one entire city. Watching this movie, seeing their life condition and the appearance of their schools, watching Gani’s struggle to continue his education, it resembles what a lot of kids are still facing right now. It’s a reminder that for some, pursuing higher education is not something given. It’s a luxury they can’t afford, nor are there any infrastructure to aid them.
And I think this movie comes out at the right time. Not so long ago, our very own Minister of Education made a statement about full-day school. It sparked lots of debate, garner argument from both for and against camps, and was ultimately cancelled (as far as I know, that is). Regardless, it shows that our thoughts about education is still very biased. When asked about how to advance our education system, we look no further than Jakarta and other big cities – and only those developed areas where the middle and upper class study. We took higher education for granted and focused on how to make it better for the privileged one. Too often, we forget that to make a better education system, we have to actually create and establish a properly working one first. We have to actually provide a decent infrastructure, man power, and access in those less-developed areas of Indonesia. We have to first ensure that they could actually pursue those 12 years of compulsory education, instead of just saying it’s mandatory and then leave it at that. We have to ensure that, decades after, there will not be any more Gani who have to risk his life just to go to school.
Rants aside, Mimpi Anak Pulau works because of the casts. It goes without saying that Ray Sahetapy was stellar. He, after all, is one of the few Indonesian actor who can do no wrong. He could be frail when he wants to, but full of life and emotional at other times. Even though he was only there for the first half of the movie, but he left a very deep impression. But my praises goes to Ananda Faturrahman. As someone who could still be considered as rookie in movies, she put up a heartfelt performance. She wasn’t overshadowed by Ray Sahetapy and was even at par with him at times. They also have a good dynamics as spouses, even though the age difference does shows. Daffa as little Jani was a bit inconsistent, but he overall put up a good performance. And I do suspect the inconsistencies had a bit more to do with the writing rather than Daffa’s attempt at acting.
Boni Faisal and M. Ichsal Zulkarnaen fell victim to a biography’s tendencies to focus too much at one character and delegating everyone else to the background. Those two dimensional characters are there merely because they’re somehow related to Jani. And even then, the two writers were a bit unsure on whether to picture Jani as someone who is just so good we can’t help but to root for him, or to shows his fault. So Jani comes off as a spoiled and insensitive brat at times, but is a role model at other times. The story was also a bit dragged at the beginning and then rushed at the end, all for the sake of showing Jani’s struggle to become the Gani Lasa that he is now. Not to mention those awkward ending scenes. Yet even with all those shortcomings, Kiki Nuriswan still put together an enjoyable movie. Given all those raw talents, I dare say Kiki accomplished quite a feat in directing them to give passable performances. Not extraordinary, but still better than some shits you might accidentally come across whether in our television or silver screens.
Mimpi Anak Pulau was not perfect. But it’s a candid social commentary with simple message about a kid who comes from nothing and – armed with only his resolve to study – come so far to be one of Batam’s first trailblazer. It’s a heartwarming tale that strikes the right chords, nudging us to rethink the current situation of our education. And it reminds us that, if we truly wants to bring a better times for Indonesia, we don’t need a longer school hours or intensive education. No. What we need, is to ignite the passion for studying in our kids, and make sure that each of them have equal chance to pursue that passion.
Director: Kiki Nuriswan. Writers: Boni Faisal & M. Ichsal Zulkarnaen. Released on: 18 August 2016. Casts: Ray Sahetapy, Ananda Faturrahman, Daffa Permana.