“A Boarding School” is an observational documentary that reveals the practice and ideology of Islamic teachings unique to Indonesia through the eyes of two young teachers and two students.
Bibah is an art teacher, one of the main reasons why students at the school like to take art classes, but she soon has to leave to do her master’s. Dul Yani is a champion of the school’s annual stand-up comedy competition; he has had to repress his sadness and loneliness that come from his mother, a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, being absent for most of his life. Dika is a senior student, highly regarded by his classmates, who is learning about helping people from an internship program organized by the school. Diding is a progressive young teacher who has taken it upon himself to provoke discussions of controversial topics in Islam with his students.
As we delve deeper into life inside the pesantren, we see that the characters’ particular stories intersect with more universal problems faced by young people today. The pesantren does not isolate them from the outside world. Intimate moments with the charming and talented young teachers and students defy cultural and religious clichés and open up the audience to sympathize and identify with their hopes and predicament.
One of the main characters in my previous documentary feature, “The Land Beneath the Fog” (2011), is a 12-year-old boy named Arifin.
In the film, Arifin wants to enrol at a junior high school, but his parents are too poor to pay for the tuition. Arifin is then sent to an Islamic boarding school instead.
When the film was released, some viewers expressed their disappointment at the parents’ decision to send Arifin to an Islamic boarding school, which they thought would only train him to become a terrorist. This judgmental reaction surprised me, but also moved me to begin to try to understand how the prejudice against pesantren, an educational institution that has been around for hundreds of years in Indonesia, was formed.
I am a Muslim myself, but I was never educated at an Islamic boarding school. My own ignorance and my audience’s preconception of Islamic boarding schools triggered my curiosity to find out what real life was like in a pesantren.
I wanted to know how the students live, what they learn in their classes and what kind of life they envisage for themselves after they graduate. What I found is surprise and inspire me. With this film, I hope it will surprise and inspire other people.
amelia hapsari / INdocs
don edkins / steps
iikka vehkalahti / steps
ken-ichi imamura / nhk, nep
mohammed belhaj / al jazeera documentary channel
DAY zero filmS ug
indonesia, japan, qatar, GERMANY, SOUTH AFRICA
The intimate observational approach used in
A Boarding School invites its audience to walk through practically every corner explorable in Pondok Kebon Jambu, to observe the life and teachings inside it, as the boarders and teachers experience daily.
Through customized interactive screening and activities using the film and its learning tools, we would like to:
● Spark meaningful reflection and discussions about the wealth of wisdom in Islam, that should not be single-mindedly defined by certain groups.
● Inspire the creation of breakthrough social models in various spaces (schools, working environment, communities, etc) that promote and safeguard intercultural sensitivity.
● Promote and build an education system that is not only focused on academic results but also character-building and civic responsibilities among students.
● Connect and cooperate with like-minded individuals, organizations, institutions, and brands who can use the film to promote a more intercultural awareness and inclusive society in Indonesia.
Furthermore, we hope to amplify the release of the film via website, to accept request for screenings and its learning tools. This would allow the film to reach a wider audience beyond the existing network of supporters, to further use the film package and promote the integration of a wholesome attitude of intercultural sensitivity in the society.
Our impact distribution
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Negeri Films aims to produce creative documentaries with high artistic values—films that surprise, inspire, engage and inform.
Since its inception in 2008, Negeri has produced three feature-length documentaries: “The Land Beneath the Fog” (2011), “Song for My Children” (2019) and “A Boarding School”. The first two films have traveled extensively in the international film festival circuit, including Dok-Leipzig, Asia Pacific Screen Awards, and the DMZ International Documentary Film Festival. While 'A Boarding School' will have it world premiere at IDFA.