January 24, 2017
Rest in Words: New Biopic shows Poet Activist Wiji Thukul's Life in Hiding

A new biopic shows the life of missing poet activist Wiji Thukul while hiding from the oppressive regime.

by Ayunda Nurvitasari
Culture // Screen Raves
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It turns out that being a fugitive is far more frightening than facing an entire platoon of ‘green beans’ armed to teeth breaking up protest rallies.
 

A freshly released film, Istirahatlah Kata-kata (“Solo, Solitude”), narrates the life of poet and human rights activist Wiji Thukul during his fugitive years under the Soeharto regime, before he went missing in 1998. But instead of portraying a  combative life filled with confrontation and bloody battles, the director Yosef Anggi Noen chooses to frame the poet’s life in hiding through the experience of solemn isolation and contemplative longings.
 
Wiji Thukul is known as an outspoken figure, unafraid of expressing his thoughts and to protests against the tyrannical government. In 1996 he was accused of inciting a riot in Jakarta, an accusation that forced him to escape Java for the next eight months. With Yulia Evina Bhara as the producer, Istirahatlah Kata-kata synthesizes Wiji’s life during the crucial period of survival, depicting him as an ordinary person, a genuine husband, a father, a friend, someone who has fears, anxiety, passion and desire like any other human being. Whilst, what makes him extraordinary is his exceptional sensitivity towards injustice done by the oppressive regime.
 
Set in July 1996 Indonesia, the story unravels in two point of views: Wiji Thukul (played by actor Gunawan Maryanto) and his wife Sipon (played by actress Marissa Anita). The opening scene shows Sipon and their daughter being interrogated by the authorities. As the wife of a fugitive, she and her children are constantly terrorized by police and soldiers. Meanwhile, Wiji struggles with trauma and paranoia while moving from one house to another in remote areas in Kalimantan. During some of the more thrilling moments, he is forced to change his entire look and identities upon encountering soldiers.
 
Anggi, as the director is known, highlights solitude through the monologue-like narration, with the main protagonist reciting Wiji Thukul’s poems, instead of music, as the soundtrack. Anggi also relies on close-up shot and static camera. As a result, the emotion and silent moments throughout the 98-minutes-long movie is well captured and well presented to pull the audience into a powerful melancholy.
 



Above all, the film is contextually relevant, as it succeeded in reminding us of how so many cases of human rights abuses in the past still haven’t been resolved. To this day, Wiji Thukul’s whereabouts is still unknown. The film also encourages us to dig deeper into our own history, and to never stop demanding justice be fulfilled.
Under the production of Muara Indonesia, Partisipasi Indonesia, Limaenam Films and KawanKawan Films, Istirahatlah Kata-kata was officially premiered nationwide on January 19th, though it was initially introduced during Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland last year. After the debut, the film has participated at international film festivals including in Vladivostok Film Festival, Hamburg International Film Festival, The Pacific Meridian International Film Festival, International Film Rotterdam, Festival Des 4 Contines France, and Busan International Film Festival. The film won Golden Hanoman Award in Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival and Piala Dewantara from Indonesian Film Appreciation 2016.
Don’t miss the screening of Istirahatlah Kata-kata at your nearby cinema! Check out their instagram for further info and updates.
 

Check out the trailer, here.
 
 

Ayunda is interested in the intersection of pop culture, media, and gender issues. She earned her master's degree at Cultural Studies department, University of Indonesia. She is into Lana Del Rey, speculative fiction, and BoJack Horseman. Her own social media sites, however, are quite uneventful, but feel free to say hi: facebooktwitter.