In a world where living in and travelling to foreign countries and cities has long become a normality, fostering cultural understanding remains an important issue.
How can we avoid cultural clashes and encourage mutual interest in one another? And if we manage to do so, will we be able to take roots and eventually call what was once strange and foreign to us our new home?
“Balik Jakarta”, a short film initiated and produced by the German Embassy Jakarta in collaboration with Studio Antelope and the support of Blackmagic Design, is trying to find answers to these questions.
“This film is intellectually stimulating because of its universal theme, the search for home,” German Ambassador to Indonesia Michael von Ungern-Sternberg said at the recent premiere of the film. “It is an Indonesian-German experience in an ever-changing and thus challenging metropolitan surrounding.”
The short film tells the story of Guenther (Frederik Neust), a tourist from Germany who grew up in Jakarta as a young boy and wants to take a stroll down memory lane by visiting the house he used to live in with his parents. He asks ojek driver Togar (Mohammad Yoga) for help, and together, they hop on Togar’s motorbike and start to make their way through the congested streets and tiny back alleys of the city – Guenther extremely unnerved by the traffic situation, Togar equally irritated by the German’s lack of patience.
“During that [ojek ride], our two so different protagonists manage to overcome their cultural differences and learn that they have more in common than they think,” the Ambassador said.
“Balik Jakarta” plays with cliches and stereotypes, and at times the film resembles a slapstick comedy that goes a tad overboard. Yet beyond the humour and laughs lies a more meaningful message: no matter how big our cultural differences are, there are always ways to bridge the gap.
Guenther and Togar first find common ground when they begin talking about football and then create an even deeper bond speaking about their families and the concept of home.
When they stop at a warung later that evening to grab a bite to eat, a couple of Indonesian men are watching the football game Germany vs. Poland and eye the unlikely pair with a mixture of confusion and amusement.
“Who is this?”, they ask Togar. He shrugs and answers, “This is my friend from Germany”, and this short reply – as nonchalant as it may sound – implies that Togar and Guenther have really found a way to connect.
“Balik Jakarta”, which was directed by Jason Iskandar, not only encourages its viewers to be more open-minded and understanding, but it is also an affectionate homage to Jakarta itself – a city that despite its many difficulties and challenges is loved by many of its inhabitants; people who proudly call Jakarta their home.