A still from Garin Nugroho's 'Memories of My Body.' (Photo courtesy of Fourcolour Films)

Garin Nugroho's Award-Winning 'Memories of My Body' Banned in Depok


APRIL 26, 2019

Jakarta. “Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku” (“Memories of My Body”), the latest film by award-winning Indonesian auteur Garin Nugroho, has been causing a storm since it hit theaters last week with conservative critics claiming the film, which features lengger lanang, a traditional Javanese dance performed by male dancers, promotes "sexually deviant behavior."

The film follows the story of Rianto, a real-life lengger lanang dancer who grew up exploring both the masculinity and femininity of his body and also having to deal with multiple traumatic experience, including discrimination and violence.

But, more conservative Indonesians accuse the film of promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender values. 

An online petition calling for the film to be banned has gathered over 5,000 signatures as of Friday morning (26/04).

Memories of My Body has now been banned in Depok, West Java, after mayor Mohammad Idris sent a letter to the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) asking to stop all screenings of the film in the city. 

The commission only has authority to ban films on television and not ones in movie theaters. 

Idris said the film "may influence people, especially the younger generation, to carry out and justify sexually deviant behavior" and "goes against religious values."

The city’s administration will send a letter to all cinemas showing the film to comply with the ban, Depok Communication and Information Agency head Sidik Mulyono said.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has also objected to the film.

MUI family and youth affairs head Arovah Windiani said she has received complaints from the public regarding the film.

"Viewed from the moral values [the film brings], it should not be out there," Arovah said on Wednesday.

However, MUI has not officially released any statement about the film.

"So far, I don't know how the MUI leadership is seeing this issue," Arovah said.

According to sociologist Sigit Rochadi, films cannot directly influence people to carry out deviant acts because there are societal norms that guide a person’s behavior.

"People’s everyday behavior is often more rational. They make certain considerations before they act. They don't just conform to pressure or follow whatever they watch in the media," Sigit said in Jakarta on Thursday.

"Most films do not directly affect the behaviors of children or adults. At most, they actually enrich the audience’s knowledge and imagination," he said.

Memories of My Body has won a number of international awards, such as the Cultural Diversity Award at the 2018 Asia Pacific Screen Awards, the Bisato d'Oro Award at the 2018 Venice Independent Film Critic and Best Film at the 2018 Festival des 3 Continents in Nantes.

In a written statement shared on social media, director Garin Nugroho said he regretted that social media has become a "medium of mass judgment," which in turn gives rise to "mass anarchy."

"For me, mass anarchy without discourse will spell an end to open-mindedness and erode our quality, capability and creativity as citizens," he said. 

"The desire for justice and the desire to live together in diversity, free from discrimination and violence, will never fade or be silenced by the threat of arms or mass anarchy without due process," Garin wrote on his Instagram page.