Laskar Pelangi Orba – a film studies thesis proposal at UvA, autumn ’09

Title: “LASKAR ORBA: Abjection Your Honour!: (police-)state-imposed self-hatred in Riri Riza’s later movies”

Supervisor: Gratiagusti Chananya Rompas, MLitt

Student name: Mikael Johani

Student #: B6761CLQ


– both Gie (2006) and Laskar Pelangi (2008) are about products of private (high)school systems, the former a student of Canisius College (CC), an elite Catholic school in Jakarta where all the old money kids go, the latter 10 kids (one dumb) from a Muhammadiyah SD in Gantong, buttfuck Belitong.

– (Soe Hok) Gie’s story set in the (bloody) transformative period between the Old Order and the New, circa 1966, when the nation still had hopes of better future though Gie died already frustrated by how same ol same ol story that future was, while Laskar Pelangi’s was pitched in 1979, post NKK/BKK, when there was No Future, educationally speaking.

– an irony: though Laskar Pelangi extols the virtue of education, by the time the 10 kids were at school, state-sponsored (high)education in Indonesia, was at a dead end.

– suggestion from Supervisor, The Most Beautiful Girl in The World: Riri’s protest voice is trés Orba, the moralistic tone, the focus on honour, the self-hatred —> abjection!

– if (God forbid) one uses Ariel Heryanto’s thesis on Orba, then Orba’s presence in Laskar Pelangi is ghost-like, all-imposing but invisible. Orba creates ghosts of its own omnipotence and Riri like the good Orba kid that he is replicates it.

– question: was the aforementioned irony deliberate?

– question: is the absence of state-school (apart from Regu B in the Cerdas Cermat and SDN Bangka that offers teacher (Omar) Bakri a job) a deliberate gesture to show Riri’s no belief in state-sponsored education?

– a fact: Ambar in 3 Hari Untuk Selamanya receives a letter of acceptance from Cambridge, which means she must have gone to an international school to do the International Baccalaureate.

– Riri Riza and Mira Lesmana are of the same generation as Rizal Mathovani who, following Gratiagusti Chananya Rompas’s great Masters thesis on post-Orba horror movies, kick-started the whole thing with Jelangkung. Mira Lesmana directed a segment of Kuldesak, a late ’90s indie movie which also involved Rizal as another segment director.

– Are Gie and Laskar Pelangi Riri’s efforts to present alternative heroes to the ones Orba presented in school posters that student of the ’80s used to have to memorise the names of? (note: the decrepit walls of the Muhammadiyah school in Laskar Pelangi only had posters on old teachers, Islamic calligraphy in the shape of a man doing the syahadat, KH Ahmad Dahlan the Muhammadiyah founder, and (RH(Raden Haji)Oma Irama.)

– is Riri’s reluctance to show Orba’s presence in Belitong in less ghost-like way an indication that, after all these years, he is still afraid of Orba’s ghosts?

– is his involvement in Masyarakat Film Indonesia who seek to overthrow the National Film Board by stigmatising a fellow filmmaker, Nayato Fia Nuala (and his Citra-winning Ekskul), further proof that he is no better than that schemer of Orla’s downfall, General Soeharto? (at least in principles if not in actual blood-letting cruelty.)

– is he a hypocritical pussy and a phony? Discuss.

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