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If you’re familiar with feminism body of thought, you may be aware that patriarchy has been as old as humanity and nobody can foresee what a matriarchal society is like. Shulamith Firestone in Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution admitted that she couldn’t imagine a post-patriarchy life. Although literature argued that matriarchy predates patriarchy, Simone de Beauvoir in her phenomenal The Second Sex proved otherwise. “Matriarchy” was just patriarchy in disguise. 

Marleen Gorris through her Oscar-winning “Antonia’s Line” (1995)―or just “Antonia” in its original title―put her rendition of a matriarchal society onto screen. In her version, matriarchy means a life in the farm, where everybody does their own bits of rough work―women and men alike. Everybody knows everybody’s business, but in a good way. There’s no room for individualism and capitalism to thrive.

The opening scene is Antonia (Willeke van Ammelrooy) facing her death. She wakes up, looks at the mirror, and thinks to herself that today is her time to die. “Antonia’s Line” is like a full circle when the film ends with that scene. In between alpha and omega, life happens.

Antonia comes back to the farm where she used to live as a child because her mother is dying. After burying the old, difficult lady, she and her daughter, Danielle (Els Dottermans) choose to stay and take care of the farm. There, Antonia establishes a matriarchal community that is first joined by the family of Farmer Bas (Jan Decleir) who falls in love with her and wants to marry her at first sight. “You’re a widow and my wife is dead,” Bas says. “My sons need a mother.”

“But I don’t need your sons,” replies Antonia nonchalantly. Danielle can’t hold her laugh. But soon after Bas and his sons move into Antonia’s farm, she softens a bit. Once a week, they sleep in an isolated house for their love affair.

It’s impossible to analyse “Antonia’s Line” independent of feminist thought. Marleen Gorris is a lesbian radical feminist, and this fact explains her worldview. In a matriarchal world of her rendition, Danielle who wants to have a baby and not a husband “to get along with it” doesn’t receive rejection from her mother. She takes Danielle to the city, and after meeting with Letta (Wimie Wilhelm)―who says that she loves to get pregnant and give birth―they set up a meeting with Letta’s nephew. Of course, Danielle’s pregnancy is frowned upon in the church, contrasting to the feminist-type of acceptance in Antonia’s household.

Danielle gives birth to Therèse (Veerle van Overloopwho grows up to be a mathematical and music genius. This contrasts with Danielle who is fond of art and skillful of painting and pottery. Later, Therèse’s prodigy raises some concerns since she’s too accelerated for her age. Daily additional tutoring is then arranged; and Danielle finds happiness as she falls in love with Therèse’s teacher, Lara Anderson (Elsie de Brauw).

Therèse is the only person in the family who can relate to Crooked Finger (Mil Seghers), Antonia’s old friend; a nihilist who reads Schopenhauer and Plato to Therèse since she’s very little. He’s the one who would later persuade Therèse not to maintain her pregnancy when she’s a grown up, since for him, being born into life is a curse. That is the only time Therèse doesn’t follow Finger’s advice, and chooses to give birth to Sarah (Thyrza Ravesteijn) instead.

Having an artsy grandmother and a genius mother, Sarah instead is gifted for clairvoyance. She can predict someone else’s death despite being so young. Sarah narrates the last part when her great-grandmother, Antonia, is on her dying bed, surrounded by people who love her, celebrating time.

And life continues still.

I’m a bit thankful by the fact that Chantal Akerman rejected Marleen Gorris’ request to make this film and encouraged Gorris to do it herself instead. Her feminism bleeds throughout the film and Antonia’s matriarchy is indeed a kind of matriarchy I envision. The kind of feminism that truly empowers and liberates. Roger Ebert pointed out that in the beginning at the film, a sign on a wall says “Welcome to our liberators!” I’m content believing that it refers to Antonia and her female descendants to come.

“Antonia” (1995)
Director: Marleen Gorris
Stars: Willeke van Ammelrooy, Jan Decleir, Veerle van Overloop
Country: Netherlands, Belgium, UK, France

 

Singapore. The small country, nestled in Malacca Strait, neighboured by Indonesia and Malaysia, is a melting pot and seen as the pinnacle of Asian modernity. I served as a living witness attesting to that. During July 5-8 2016 I travelled solo in the Little Red Dot that once was home to me. Here are some immortalised scenes of Singapore through my eyes (and my phone camera):

Ministry of Communications and Information

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I didn’t plan to go here originally. I took bus to go to Fort Canning Park, if my memory doesn’t lapse, and I went pass this colourful building. I immediately got out of the bus and took pictures while visiting nearby Clarke Quay. So, yes, you may go to Clarke Quay MRT and will immediately see this building! A perfect spot for some photographing project, methinks.

Pinnacle @ Duxton
See interesting Singapore’s skyline from the tallest public housing project!

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Busy day at the harbour

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Low rises against high rises

The nearest MRT station to this place is Tanjong Pagar, after that, head east from your position as you head out from the MRT station and just follow along the Cantonment Road. When I got there, I had to go to block 1-G to see the booth where you can buy your ticket to go to the 50th floor. The price is $5 and can be paid via your EZ-link card or cash.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

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The detail

How do you reach this place? The nearest MRT station is Outram Park. I would suggest you go here around lunch time so you might have some lunch at the famous Maxwell Hawker Centre (Tiantian Hainanese Chicken Rice, of course) because the place is just across the road from this temple.

When I went here I didn’t go inside as I was in rush, but you actually can go inside and look around! The temple is active though, I mean, monks and common citizens pray in it as usual, so please be considerate and do not bother them praying.

My eternal favourite: SuperTree Groves at Gardens by the Bay!

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This is, hands down, my favourite place in Singapore. I went here multiple times during my living in Singapore in 2014 and was on top of my itinerary list when I came this year. You literally can come at any time of the day and will be mesmerised by the SuperTree Groves. Nobody will get bored of it.

The nearest MRT station to this place is Bayfront. Although I previously said that you may come at any time of the day and the trees will still be gorgeous, try coming later at night because at 7.45 and 8.45 p.m. they have light show. When I came, the theme was Retro so they played 60s songs and the SuperTree Groves were lit up syncing to the beat. It was really beautiful.

If you get some extra cash, buy tickets to the two conservatories: Cloud Forests and Flower Dome!

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Flower Dome in three pictures. Look at em lush flowers!

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A must see: The Fall in Cloud Forests!

The price to the 2 conservatories is $28 for each tourist. However, if you’re willing to take some time to do some research online, you’ll find travel agents that offer the tickets at a much lower price! I bought the ticket to 2 conservatories plus a ticket to OCBC skyway for only $25, where normally it would’ve been $36.

Head on to watch light show at Waterfront Promenade nearby, and take a walk on the Helix Bridge to end the night.

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The Helix Bridge

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Singapore’s skyline from The Helix Bridge. No edit and no filtering needed since the place is naturally photogenic.


Bored with modern scenes? Take a stroll at Kampong Buangkok, the last remaining ‘kampong’ (village) amidst the concrete jungle that is Singapore.

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For those who fancy rough Asian scene.

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Unlikely scene in Singapore. Be considerate, though, as there are real people who live in these houses and would like some privacy.

I stopped at Paya Lebar MRT station and crossed the road to take a bus to reach this place. There were 24 stops. Yes, the place is pretty much secluded and you need to be aware of your location!

Pay Haw Par Villa a visit and get your reality contorted.

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Bizarre vibe of the garden!

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My spirit animal.

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The face that I make everyday.

Need to burn off that fat from eating too much uncle ice cream? Tighten your calves by jogging at the Southern Ridges.

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The Henderson Waves. Yes, that Henderson Waves.

I was pretty confused on how to reach this place as blogs that I’d read had given me contradicting statements. But here’s how I went there: stop at Telok Blangah MRT, cross the road and take any bus, you stop two stops later. You’re welcome!

Bonus pics: Other interesting scenes

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Colour galore at Kerbau Road, Little India.

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You haven’t visited Singapore if you haven’t taken picture of this famous mural at Haji Lane, Bugis.

I went to Rochor Centre, Bugis, to take shelter from the sudden pouring rain that morning. I wasn’t disappointed.

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Another gaily coloured buildings scene.

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Where reality is a bit distorted.


If you like my pictures, feel free to follow me on Instagram!

Several tips on travelling to Singapore:

1) Unless you really need to, always take MRT over bus. MRTs always stop at every stop and announce their location so you can make sure you’re not lost. On the other hand, buses won’t stop if nobody stops nor flags the bus so if you’re not familiar with the surroundings of the place you’re heading to, you might skip your stop!
2) Always bring a bottle of water, an umbrella or a hat with you. Singapore is really hot and humid and I’ve never been to a place hotter and more humid than Singapore, and I spend the entirety of my life in Jakarta, Indonesia. Re-applying sunscreen every few hours will make your skin thank you.
3) Singaporeans are a bit loss when it comes to some tourist spots (except some very popular ones, perhaps, like Merlion Park). I asked plenty of local citizens places that I thought was popular (like Pinnacle @ Duxton, Maxwell Food Centre) and none of them knew. It’s better to just purchase a Singaporean SIM card upon your arrival and check your locations online.
4) Toilets don’t have water for you to clean yourself after. They only have tissues, so keeping a bottle of water with you may be important in this case.
5) You have to bring your tray over after eating. In Indonesia if we go to some restaurants we just let our trash there after eating. In Singapore if you go to hawker centre or some restaurants, you have to bring your tray over to some designated places to ease the job of the cleaners. In the hostel where I stayed, we even cleaned our plates after eating breakfast.
6) Eat at hawker centre. Food in Singapore is very expensive and you can save a lot of money by resisting to eat at a restaurant–which may cost you $15 per person per meal–and eat at a hawker centre instead–which will cost you $5 only. I, for one, am not a big fan of Singaporean cuisine and is therefore unable to recommend any place to eat, since in Singapore I ate so that I did not die. However, you can go spend your cash at one of eateries in Tiong Bahru as it is a lively place with a lot of food joints!

Singapore has always been a nice country to me, and I’m really looking forward to visiting it once again in the future. I didn’t manage to pay a visit to several places: MacRitchie Reservoir, Botanic Garden, Holland Village, independent bookstores in Tiong Bahru, top of Esplanade (to watch sunset), Bras Basah… the list is bottomless. Hopefully there’ll be next time to it!

jeanne dielman

Although Chantal Akerman herself refused to reduce her masterpiece to mere ideologies, she had to admit that “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” (1975)–further will be addressed as “Jeanne Dielman”– is one of the most important works in feminist cinema. Dissecting a woman’s life, our shared experience, and studying them under cinematic microscope constitute audacity that only feminists dare to make.

For three hours and twenty minutes we are allowed to follow closely the three days of Jeanne Dielman, a widow with one son, a prostitute by day, and an efficient homemaker (Slant Magazine used this term and I liked it). Feminist film theorists claim that these occupations are women’s position in society which make Jeanne Dielman an embodiment of a second-class citizen, and is therefore easily identifiable to women.

Like dancing to an adagio cadence, Jeanne handles her days mechanically. She wakes up in the morning, makes some coffee and breakfast, cooks dinner in the afternoon, takes a weekly john into her bedroom, and by the time her john’s done, potato is cooked and it’s a perfect time for dinner after her son goes home from school. She’s there, with her elegant gait walking from a room to another room, doing chore after chore with precise timing, starting from turning on the lamp to turning it off when she leaves the room. She and her domestic queendom are inseparable on screen. The use of static camera that we thought had lost was revived in order to display her attachment to her domesticity. Like a conditioned woman, Jeanne identifies herself to her surroundings, never to herself as a human.

We’re made conditioned to Jeanne’s personal success on the first day conquering her domestic world that some minor screw-ups in the second and third days drive us to the edge of our seats. As personal attachment grows between us and Jeanne, we’re worried about the fact that she forgets to close the lid of the vase, and hell, was I frustrated over the overcooked potato that I nearly punched the screen. Little did we realise that the small internal scream invoked when she misses the minutiae of her ritual is the daily life of our mothers, our maids, and our sisters. Her life is a set of habits that need to be checked every day, so when in the end she takes a scissor and stabs her john after finishing with him we’ll be aghast and need time to recover as Jeanne sits alone that evening with blood flowing in her hand.

The same system that habituates her to domesticity also ritualises women to always accommodate men. As if showing her subconsciousness that always prioritises men, patriarchs in her life occupy a significant screen time, from her son to her clients. Meanwhile, two women who seem to have close relationship with her don’t even appear on screen. Her neighbour remains faceless to the end of the film despite interacting with Jeanne daily. Her sister’s festive life is narrated by Jeanne’s monotone voice when she reads her letters. Perhaps it’s too far-fetched to say that Jeanne only highlights male presence, but seeing how her labour goes into pampering her son and satisfying her johns, the importance of men in Jeanne’s life is just self-evident.

After going through several online forums discussing this film, I concluded that men generally find it a dreadful, boring film. I think this is what Akerman wanted to convey. “Jeanne Dielman” pictures women’s lives–which account for half of the population–unapologetically. This is the condition of womanhood girls are socialised into. Is it clean? Did I put too much water in my cooking? What about that spot that I missed while cleaning? Her obsessiveness with tidiness and hygiene isn’t OCD, it’s what we women are expected to be. Men may call it tedious, but women call it our lives.

“Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” (1975).
Director: Chantal Akerman
Stars: Delphine Seyrig, Jan Decorte
Country: Belgium, France

 

about a woman

The last installment of Teddy Soeriaatmadja’s trilogy closed it sweetly. Being first screened at the Singapore International Film Festival 2014, it barely appeared to the surface. As an advantage, Soeriaatmadja unleashed his idea and creativity onto an uncensored screen.

I first watched the film on February 10, when there was a free screening at Plaza Indonesia. Soeriaatmadja was there, delivering a Q&A session after the screening. Apparently, Soeriaatmadja made a conscious decision to not distribute it to the general public.

Compared to his two previous films, “About a Woman” is not as dramatised as the first two installments. Taking place in only a house, the story revolves around a Woman (Tutie Kirana), a 65 years old widow whose only daughter lives with her own family and has no companion in her old years. Her daily life doesn’t look so stressful–she drinks tea in the morning, exercises a bit, eats lunch, plays with puzzle on the evening, watches TV thereafter, and regularly prays in between–but she maintains her ice cold exterior through her mean words. Soeriaatmadja patiently portrays a lonely woman who refuses to admit that she’s lonely, and as a result, shows what appears to be jealousy when her maid leaves her to take care of her parents.

It all begins when her son-in-law sends his unemployed 18-19 years old nephew, Abi (Rendy Ahmad) to help her out. The Woman’s trust issue causes her tight lip behaviours when dealing with him at first. Over time, these two bond, in an unimaginable way. The Woman feels her sexual desire rekindled once again, and her hand trembles when she starts applying lipstick on her lips after years of being nonchalant about her appearance. She can only see Abi from afar when he exploits his youth.

In the Q&A session after the Plaza Indonesia screening, Soeriaatmadja admits that the theme of the film is his reason to not make the film accessible to general public. The sex scenes–although not that explicit to my standards–will never make it past the Film Censor Institute (LSF). Not to mention the possible controversy as a sure repercussion.

I personally liked it so much that I watched it for the second time in when Sinema Rabu screened it. I regret that less people see this film though, since this is a great picture deserving of attention. Soeriaatmadja’s filmmaking techniques sure have matured since “A Lovely Man” or “Something in the Way.” Here, no more of those cringeworthy cliché dialogues. Even, the dialogues are minimum.

As a result, strong acting of both main characters is at request. Tutie Kirana’s acting is top notch as she manages to represent the ambiguity and human hypocrisy that connect the three films. She becomes a mean old woman who prays regularly yet never displays her religiosity in any way. On the other hand, Rendy Ahmad’s acting still can’t parallel that of Kirana’s. At some points he can become very awkward and flat. Still, the film is Tutie Kirana’s spotlight.

Soeriaatmadja’s refreshing take on an old woman’s sexuality is greatly represented on “About a Woman.” By becoming simpler, mayhaps he expects to convey more emotions for the audience to feel rather than learn from. And he’s right.

 

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Teddy Soeriaatmadja’s 2013 masterpiece entitled “Something in the Way” is often quoted as the local version of Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” (1976), and it is for a reason. In this film, Soeriaatmadja follows the journey of Ahmad (Reza Rahadian), a taxi driver with dull and dim eyes, seeking after adventure to contrast with his boring life. His encounter with Kinar (Ratu Felisha) fortunately sheds some lights on to his routine.

Despite being a devout person who prays five times a day and regularly attends khotbah, Ahmad has his own deadly sin: lust. The first scene of the movie shows him masturbating to some old pictures of women in underwear, and later on when he gets home, the first thing he does is watch counterfeited porn DVDs. Apparently, this is Soeriaatmadja’s favourite text as he also conveyed the similar narrative in his previous film, “Lovely Man.” In Soeriaatmadja’s universe, everyone is grey. No one is good or bad, everybody is the mixture of some shade. Just as Cahaya in “Lovely Man” who is religious yet pregnant outside of marriage, similarly, Ahmad has his own addiction that is frowned upon by society.

These two sides of Ahmad alternate in the movie. The scene portraying him jerking off to some cheap porn DVD is followed by him doing his subuh prayer, consecutively. He attends khotbah at a local mosque by day, and visits the city’s red light district at night. It is where he recognises Kinar (Ratu Felisha), his neighbour who always has trouble with her apartment door. It is a lie to say that he doesn’t lust after her; after all, she’s a beautiful prostituted woman armed with sharp mouth and mean behaviours to protect herself.

And as expected, both romancing each other is inevitable in this scenario. Regretfully, this confusing feeling that only creates dissonance to conservative Ahmad is put into the pinnacle of the story too quickly. They narrate one plot after another in a rather rough manner, and too quick to jump to conclusion. This is especially palpable when they introduce Pinem’s incredible character as Kinar’s greedy pimp briefly, and shortly afterwards, Ahmad is shown to be listening to a khotbah about jihad very carefully. After that, the ending is clear and predictable. Two plus two equals four.

“Something in the Way” is a minimalist film with only three attention-stealing characters with each one’s backgrounds being barely debunked to the audience. This is especially true on Rahadian and Felisha’s characters. Reza Rahadian manages to display the non-interesting part of him that is especially apparent judging from his gaze. This is a refreshing take after various handsome-guy-who-is-a-heartbreaker role he usually takes in movies. Kudos to Ratu Felisha as well for being able to portray a nonchalant prostitute, and being ambiguous about her feelings towards Rahadian’s character. Were it not for the missing links in the script, the two would’ve dug their talent deeper.

In the end, Soeriaatmadja stays with his favourite signature: capturing the rogue corners of Jakarta in between shots. If you have watched “Lovely Man,” this would come as a striking resemblance, in terms of cinematography. With his shaky camera, close-up shots, and rather minimal dialogue, he immerses us into his honesty of what embittered romance in this dismal city ought to look like.