Tanah Surga… Katanya: The Diamond in the Rough

Despite what other people think of, I think sociology is one of the best classes in school. The main reason is that we get to watch a film, like, every month. And, best of all, not just any easy film, but award-winning ones. I watched three films in total so far in sociology class. The first one’s Alangkah Lucunya Negeri Ini, a film about a business graduate teaching pickpockets to sell goods, which represented Indonesia in the 2008 Oscars foreign language film submissions. The next one’s The Pianist, a film about a Jewish pianist surviving the holocaust, which won three Oscars including best director for Roman Polanski and best actor for Adrien Brody. The third one is the one I’m going to write about; the winner of the 2012 Piala Citra for best film, TANAH SURGA… KATANYA.

The film tells about the life of Salman (Osa Aji Santoso), a child living in a Kalimantan village near the borders between Indonesia and Malaysia. His dad aims to live and work in Malaysia, but his grandfather disagrees. Eventually, his dad and his sister move to Malaysia and Salman and his grandfather stays. He then witnesses life in his village, how his schoolteacher struggles to strenghten her students’ patriotism between the blurred lines of Indonesia and Malaysia’s national conduct in the village, and a new doctor who copes with Salman’s grandfather’s degrading health.

A still from the film
A still from the film

The movie’s show stealer is Osa Aji Santoso, who awed audiences as the fragile yet determined Salman, and he acts the final scene brilliantly, in all honesty. Yet, the movie’s actual charm lies on its cinematography and music. As the opening credits roll, the sights of a Kalimantan lake delights us, the gleaming blue sky roaming across the horizon, with several hills like green carpets at the background. The enigmatic, cultural, and captivating score by Thoersi Agreswara opens the film and hints at the film’s cultural background.

The film’s strengths, apart from the score and the cinematography, also lie on the plotline. The neverending conflict between Malaysia and Indonesia and the longing of Indonesian people to move to better countries (which, in extremities, leads to a loss of nationalism) is the foundation of this story, brilliantly highlighted by the setting of a village by the borders of Indonesia and Malaysia. The visible issues in the village addressed by the new local doctor are issues that aren’t visible in this country as a whole, yet it still exists. The story raises questions of nationalism and decisions.

The witty dialogues of the film revolves around a popular Koes Plus song called “Kolam Susu”, hence the title (“Orang bilang tanah kita tanah surga” – everyone says our land is heaven on earth). The ironical concept of the movie leads us to questions to reflect. Why won’t residents of the border village embrace and love their own country, while foreigners crave our beauty and prestige? Will we fight for our country, even though other countries are way better in our opinions?

I recommend you to watch this movie (especially if you are an Indonesian who is losing faith about this country) and think about it.



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