I just realized that I haven’t gotten around to writing about the unusual movie night that was organized by my friends back in January. I knooow it’s so late, but what the hell. I am always behind in updating my blog anyway *grin*.
As I said in my past post, the movie night was held in Bioskop Grand, a slum movie theater in Senen. Though I’ve heard stories and received some little warnings about the theater, I didn’t really know what to expect (especially with only a little piece of information I know about the movie night). I mean, I’ve been to movie theaters as such but it was back during my college days when my curiosity as a Sociology student was so high (I ended up writing a paper about the social pattern of the movie-goers). But those days were a ways behind me, and I was so sure this unusual movie night would give me an interesting experience.
Once I arrived I found out that it was a Free Movie Night. The movies being screened were Benyamin Koboi Insaf and Susanna’s Santet 2. Typical themes that normally attract the theater’s patrons. Comedy, horror and sex.
There, two young women were sitting on previously prepared chairs with an old chipped table in front of them. One of the women was dressing up like Susanna with a jasmine flowers tassel headdress adorning her hair and red blush-on harshly dominating her skinny oval-shaped face . She sat sheepishly while handing out the free tickets. On the contrary, the other women stood up with full of self-confidence and blasted out her loud voice, calling out people to come and get a free ticket to the movies. There were some games too, hosted by the two women and a guy from the organizer team. I was instantly liking the ambiance. All the little interactions that happened among the crowd. Oh, by the way, the two women were sex workers who work in the area every night. It was a good effort from the organizer side to engage people from the hood (well, not necessarily those who reside there, but at least those who spend their days and nights around the theater) in the event.
I quickly observed the whole place too. It amazed me how this theater survives the modern situation of Jakarta. It is a big run down building with five studios in it and located right in the corner of one of the busiest areas in central Jakarta. Across the street, erect a big shopping mall with movie theaters that is part of the 21 cineplex mega spider net. I was wondering how the owner manage to pay the taxes with only Rp. 4000 ticket price and a low occupancy for each theater on any given days.
9 pm, I stood just a couple of meters away from the studio door and watched the people entering the studio. It surprised me and amused me at the same time to see the demography of the movie-goers. Young, old, men and women. Nicely-clothed (in their own right) and poor-looking groups of people. Even Chinese-descent families with young children!
Just as people entering the studio, the Chinese woman who owns the theater invited a scavenger, who looked puzzled looking at the crowd and wondered about what was going on, to see the movie.
“C’mmon, sir, get the ticket and watch the movies. Put your basket and picker out here. I’ll keep an eye on them.”
I finally entered the studio. My eyeballs kept moving left and right, up and down. Absorbing everything there were inside the studio. A large beat-up room with nasty-looking walls that have cracks and chips all over the place. A stadium-setting seating arrangement with old-shit wooden chairs. Narrow screen that was put too high up the wall, definitely not proportionately placed in accordance with the seating. I laughed when I saw a restroom right under the screen. Oh, how it completes the bizarreness of this theater. Not to mention the big fans attached to the walls, and oh…everyone was smoking inside (I did too, to distract myself from the nasty smell). So my friend and I settled in the middle row. When I said settled, it doesn’t mean I was sitting comfortably with my back resting against the chair and my arms on the armrest. All of those warnings kept me basically half sitting half standing (well, I exaggerate it a bit but basically I wasn’t sitting properly), with my arms nicely on my laps.
So the first movie started. It was Benyamin Koboi Insaf. I ain’t gonna tell you about the movie, but I will about how it went. As most of you, Indonesians (well at least if you were from the ’80s and up generation or if you are a curious younger generation) you know what kind of movie was this. A slapstick comedy that to me, to be quite frank, was not so funny anymore (okay, some were still funny to me). But the idea of watching it was hilarious. But for most people in the theater, I guess the movie was sooo entertaining, as they kept laughing and clapping at each scenes, particularly at raunchy scenes. One catch, the movie stop every five minutes! As if the bad quality pictures and a screen that chopped the moving pictures on the edges were not enough. When the blank screen appeared, people booed and made different kind of funny remarks. When the pictures were back on, they clapped and cheered. I just laughed the whole way of the movie.
One interesting thing to point out. There was a woman sitting a few chairs down from my friend. No one was between them. Just a second after my friend settled on his seat, that woman tried to start a conversation with him. A small and trivial conversation, like asking the time, what movie was about and so on. After a while we assumed that she was a sex worker trying to get a business. Another experience that was rather nasty, was when my friend, who sat more confidently than I did, felt something sticky on his arms from the armrest. Eeewwww!!!! (to understand the context, you might want read my first posting about this movie night here). He was sooo lucky that I was well-equipped with wet tissues.
At the end of the first movie, I already felt itches all over my body. It might have been just in my head, but I decided to go out. I have observed enough anyways. The only thing I had in mind was just to go home and take a shower. But I ended up in a karaoke room my girlfriends. Oh well….
All and all, kudos to Vero, Ucu and friends for organizing such a wonderful event. It is not often for the less-fortunate people get such a treat. Keep up the good work, guys!
Note: I actually had an interesting conversation with the owner of the movie theater. But this post is long enough being as it is. So I won’t bore you with any more paragraphs