MIFF 2019: Memories of My Body (2018)

Director: Garin Nugroho

Starring: Muhammad Khan, Raditya Evandra, Rianto, Sujiwo Tejo, T. Rifnu Wikana, Whani Darmawan

Trailer

A young boy Juno (Muhammad Khan) is abandoned by his father in a central Java village and is looked after by a string of shithead adults until he finds his own way in the world. The stories are narrated by the adult Juno (Rianto) based on his real experiences and have some strange scenes of violence and surrealism.

The teenage Juno is played by Raditya Evandra and ends up working as a tailors’ assistant and falls for a fighter.

He ends up with a group of Lennger dancers in a remote village as they have been pushed out of the cities and only perform in the villages. A local political candidate wants the group to perform and takes a shine to Juno, wanting him to perform as special ceremony for good luck. The Wurok of the dance group decides to take Juno as his Gemblak, a young male lover giving magical powers.

The memories of my body refers to the trauma and violence of being human. All people have some trauma in their lives and there is always violence. “It’s just like life, you’ve got to take the funny with the tragic.”

From the director he said the movie was made in just two weeks. It is also banned in six cities in Indonesia and has a theatrical cut and a festival cut. There is an issue currently with Islam from the Middle East coming in to the country and winning out over the local beliefs.

Before September 11 there wasn’t the fanatical Muslim beliefs and there was even a LGBITQ Quran school before it was shut down by hardliners. There is a claim that LGBITQ is a western concept and did not exist in the country before, there are at least five gender on Java and on each island it is different.

There were not many questions from the audience, but there were good ones. One was about how LGBTIQ people are being treated as it used to be if they kept it secret they wouldn’t be treated badly. The director said there has been some incidents, but he wanted to open a discussion.

The dancer from the movie is doing a performance in Melbourne coming up so hopefully it has a lot of people attend.

I thought the movie was very well shot considering it was made in such a short time. It seems very naturalistic and the performances are very rough and unpolished. I did like seeing the same boom box that Juno carries around everywhere each time he moves.

The setting of the movie seems to be some-time around the 1980s but it does have the post-Suharto era included. A reference to the anti-Communist purge of 1965 is in the film also.

A great story and more of a character study and a big showy movie. Is perfect if you want something slower and more arthouse after the endless stream of superhero movies of the past few years.

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