[Movie Review] Turah: An Untold Truth

Posted on 15 May, 2019

Poster source IMP Awards

The annual Indonesia Film Festival (IFF) welcomed for another year, celebrating Indonesian films with Australian audience once more. The 14th IFF with its theme ‘An Enchantment of Authenticity’ has showcased the originality of Indonesian culture and cinematography. And here is our review of the year, “Turah: An Untold Truth” written by AIYA VIC Education Facilitators, Sondoos.

The Indonesian film Turah portrays the real-life struggles of disadvantaged people in a small village, Tirang. Situated in central Java, the film setting plays a significant role in elucidating the paradoxical prominence and absence of these underprivileged groups. Central Java is located at the heart of Indonesia, supposedly where Indonesia’s more developed and advantaged cities lie. Tirang residents, however, experience the crux of the structural violence that stems from the underlying capitalist system.

Their experiences are portrayed as ever so existent yet non-existent or perhaps overlooked by the government and its citizens. After all, this is just the predictable consequences of capitalism- the injustice itself slowly loses meaning as it becomes so embedded within society. This is demonstrated from the beginning of the film, where a couple of officials go by Turah’s home to confirm their personal details for the upcoming elections. Turah’s wife informs them that they need water and some basic maintenance, to which they simply respond saying “this is not our job!”.

The film goes on to depict the structural violence through poverty: village residents who spend their life working hard only to be exploited by Darso (the landowner) and Pakel- who run the village and more broadly symbolise the upper class who benefit from an exploitative system. The village residents are denied access to basic resources such as nutrition, healthcare and education. Jadag, after spending his entire life at the village working hard to barely afford basic needs such as food and water, begins to overtly and furiously question the governance of the village. Jadag resorts to alcoholism as a form of escape only to realise that it is playing an ineffective role. Turah, on the other hand, is a critical observer who opts for working hard and prefers silence and coming to terms with the system through cooperation rather than conflict.

Neither Jadag nor Turah’s approach succeed in resolving the conflict in the village. Jadag’s blatant rage towards Darso and Pakel places all the villagers at risk. Turah and his wife ultimately seek to move out and attempt to escape the harsh reality, just as Jadag’s wife takes her son and leaves the village. This notion of escape, or desire to escape the system, be it through death or through emigration, highlights the limited extent to which the characters are really succeeding in their escape from the system. Rather, they are simply going through a delusional escape and temporary relief from the unpleasant reality and from their difficult experiences.

This film embodies powerful themes of structural violence, injustices and inequalities that resonate with the audience following the bitter ending of the movie: Jadag’s death and his son’s witnessing of his father’s corpse that has been hanged to death. The audience is left with the question of whether the structural violence and the prominent injustices will remain as an untold or disregarded the truth, accepted as a natural outcome of societal structures. Can we really move on?