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EIFF 2018: A punk Daydream (2018) directed by Jimmy Hendrickx

Punks in Jakarta

This documentary from Belgian writing-directing team Jimmy Hendrickx and Kristian Van der Heyden takes a look at a group of Muslim punks living in the slums of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia and one of the largest cities in the world. They are stigmatised by wider society largely due to their tattoos, which are associated with criminality. They are even ostracised by their own parents because of the association. Nonetheless, they stand as a small counterculture in an overwhelmingly conservative society, offering a voice opposing the country’s corrupt establishment via their primitive but energetic music.

The film also takes a comparative look at traditional tribal rural communities where tattooing is the norm.

Watch a trailer:

N.B. This version of the film that I viewed was a 90% complete work in progress which had some non-fatal audio and subtitling issues. It is not on wide release in the UK at present. It is showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018.

Rebellion in a stifling society

A punk Daydream takes a fascinating view of a counterculture in a country which many people in the Western world know little about. As with the punks in the US and USA during the Reagan-Thatcher era of “greed is good” capitalism, these young adults come from a section of society which has been left behind - one which is forced to endure third world conditions in the shadows of the looming skyscrapers of a rapidly booming Asian economy. It’s a place where people live next to piles of rubbish and a polluted river, a world which the wealthier sections of society literally place themselves safely above via motorway flyovers and glass-covered towers. It’s unsurprising that a few brave young souls a willing to condemn themselves to inevitable social ostracism just so that they can make waves and shock others out of their complacency. While they are at least happy that they are no longer living under the dictatorship of President Suharto (where protests were dealt with via gunfire, as brought home by one member of the group revealing a bullet wound on his leg), they still see repression in quite another form nowadays: stigmatisation.

Jimmy Hendrickx does a great job of portraying Jakarta via landscape shots which take in the city’s vast contrasts. The punks themselves, meanwhile, are typically filmed in extreme close-ups which reveal them as fearsome, almost Maori-like warrior presences with their myriad tattoos. There are also regular bursts of footage showing them playing their fierce, confrontational music.

There are a number of particularly startling and moving moments here. One involves a staged conversation between one of the punks and an actor who portrays his father (a military man). It’s a speech which the former makes to the latter in a last-ditch attempt to avoid permanent estrangement. Another scene, where they explore a film factory abandoned after the fall of the Suharto regime, is a chilling reminder of the overbearing media control which authoritarian regimes consistently exercise. Last, but not least, are the snippets of footage depicting the punks exploring the smoky, grey, foreboding and almost alien landscape of one of Indonesia’s many volcanoes.

Despite its depiction of a society where it’s clear that much is amiss, however, A punk Daydream is far from unremittingly grim. Rather, it depicts these punks as being yet another colourful facet of a beguilingly diverse culture. As such, it’s one to celebrate rather than one to lament - a testament to how rebellion can form even in the most stifling of environments.

Runtime: 75 mins

Dir: Jimmy Hendrickx

Script: Jimmy Hendrickx, Kristian Van der Heyden

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

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