This Indonesian-Belgian co-production is an intriguing hybrid. One could expect that a documentary about Indonesian punk will be a typical talking heads affair, explaining the origins and evolution of the punk movement in Indonesia. But the director, Jimmy Hendrickx, whose short docufiction “Semalu” portraying the children of Kuala Lumpur’s suburb won several awards, had a different, maybe a bit rebellious, idea for his debut feature.
Of course, we follow a colorful and vivid community of youths, with a special focus on the boy named Eka and his friends, sporting their Mohawks and other insane hairstyles, numerous tattoos and eccentric attires. They briefly narrate their stories, in which difficult family background is a recurring theme. Sometimes the voice is given to those more or less supportive family members, thus we learn what a strict Muslim father has to say about sinful tattoos. But for a contrast there’s also a scene with Eka talking to an imam, who explains that Allah doesn’t care about the cover – like the tattooed skin, it is the heart that must be clean.
We observe the young rebels, questioning social inequalities, government’s corruption and exploitation of nature, shown in their gritty reality—gloomy metropolis, where skyscrapers rise above the steel shacks of a slum, children play amidst the piles of trash and cement labyrinths of flyovers suffocate with traffic. But those images intertwine with visions of nature that seem to come from another world. However, this is the same world, only the part which disappears: a flash-green jungle and the indigenous people of Dayak and Mentawai tribes inhabiting it, trying to preserve their traditions and live in harmony with nature: using its resources, but not destroying it. Ritual, tattooed images cover their bodies. The irony is that what used to be a part of culture has become a hostile element and symbol of rebellion. With time, and the Suharto regime, tattoos have become associated with criminals and social laws. Henrickx draws parallels between the punks and tribal people, as both live on the margin of modern society. He is also signalling the challenges the tribes face with modern world reaching further and further. How they can protect their traditions while adapting to today’s life?
Thus “Lamunan oi. A punk daydream” is more a kind of video essay, reflecting on changes in society that affect both the people, old ways of living and environment. It is a portrayal of a country still recovering from the Suharto regime, undergoing many revolutions on different levels of life. The movie, with its graphic locations, at times becomes a hypnotic journey at the verge of inevitable apocalypse. The director explains his intentions:
We wanted to make a film that touches upon the disturbing social, political, and ecological revolutions in Indonesia from the stand point of the most eclectic and oppressed classes, the punks and the tribes. It is is important to note that they have a lot in common, not only practically, as a source of inspiration for tattoos, but also as a way of life. To us, they are predermined to have a spiritual connection.
Unfortunately, although its subject is fascinating, the film only drifts on the surface. And for a viewer without a knowledge about Indonesia it may be tough to understand the challenges the post-regime, developing, multiethnic society face as no historical context is given. It also tries to combine too many forms and ideas, and the result is somehow messy. Nevertheless, the original form, eccentric characters, and the gritty sequences presenting vibrant and bustling life of the streets and a bold mixture of tunes, swinging from angry local punk to traditional gamelan music, makes it a memorable experience.