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'Turah': A closer look at structural violence

Artikel ini disalin dari The Jakarta Post dengan seijin penulis.

Turah hadir perdana di layar kineforum dalam program Arus Bawah (3-16 April 2017).

Keep your two cents: Turah (Ubaidillah, right), tired of listening to Jadag's incessant whining, walks away from him. (Fourcolours Film/File)

Keep your two cents: Turah (Ubaidillah, right), tired of listening to Jadag's incessant whining,

walks away from him. (Fourcolours Film/File)

Structural violence refers to a form of violence inflicted by social structures or institutions by preventing people from receiving their basic needs.

Because structural violence affects people differently across various social structures, it is very closely linked to social injustice. Structural violence and direct violence are shown to be highly correlated, as the former opens the door to various forms of violence between family members, genders, races or social classes.

One manifestation of structural violence is poverty, in which unequal distribution of capital and assets leads to the accumulation of resources by certain segments of society, denying poor people access to essential resources, such as hygiene, health, nutrition and education.

According to September 2016 data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), 27.76 million Indonesians live below the property line, constituting 10.70 percent of the total population. Central Java ranks second in the list of provinces with the largest underprivileged population, after East Java with 4.49 million people.

A non-mainstream film called Turah ( 2016 ) by Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo seeks to investigate the issue of poverty in Central Java. The film is set in Tirang village, Tegal, Central Java, with characters speaking in a local dialect of the Javanese language.

The film was launched in November last year at the 11th Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival (JAFF), and this April, it is featured Kineforum cinema café for the entire month. Kineforum is located inside the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center compound in Central Jakarta.

The word turah itself has a specific meaning in Javanese: the remnants of something that once existed in abundance. The decision to use the word as the film’s title seems to encapsulate the whole crux of its story, namely how the poor residents of Tirang village survive hand-tomouth by living off the leftover crumbs of a landowner named Darso (played by Yono Daryono).

The landowner accumulates his wealth by employing villagers and giving them a meager pay; typical of how capital owners gain big profits by choking the lives out of their laborers. The “gullible” villagers, however, are not aware of how they are exploited because of the highly educated yet devious Pakel (Rudi Iteng), Darso’s henchman who tricks workers into believing they are receiving charity from the rich man and should be grateful, when in fact, they are actually receiving their monthly pay.

While most villagers choose to remain passive and accept their so-called destiny, two residents try to change their lives and the lives of those around them.

An angry, raving man called Jadag (Slamet Ambari) embodies the Marxist class consciousness by trying to shake villagers out of their slumber and wake them up to Darso’s exploitation of them with provocative speeches. There is also a man named Turah (Ubaidillah) who insists that instead of provoking anger among villagers, they should focus on working hard and changing their lives through more cooperative methods.

Listen up: Turah (left) thinks as Jadag (Slamet Ambari) expresses an unfavorable opinion of their cooperative leader, Darso.(Fourcolours Film/File)

Listen up: Turah (left) thinks as Jadag (Slamet Ambari) expresses an unfavorable opinion

of their cooperative leader, Darso.(Fourcolours Film/File)

Tension and dread permeate through the entire film, particularly because we know that poverty has turned these villagers into vulnerable people who are highly expendable. A close-up look at how they are exploited by the rich and highly educated bourgeois class while being denied proper access to nutrition, education, healthcare and hygiene is equally disturbing.

The film also presents many layers detailing the consequences of poverty: addiction to alcohol and gambling, domestic violence, infanticide and many more. This is what Johan Galtung talks about when he asserts that structural violence alsogives rise to other forms of direct violence. Director Wicaksono seems presents this complex, tangled web of violence very well through concrete examples that are woven into the story’s fabric. One scene is very important as it brings up issues that are timely and socially relevant, yet rarely talked about. It features a quarrel between Jadag, an elementary school graduate, and Pakel, a university graduate who malevolently uses his intellect to further perpetuate the exploitation of the villagers.

In the scene, Pakel humiliates Jadag for being “just” an elementary school graduate while boasting about his own status as a sarjana (university graduate). Pakel fights back by saying that although he is just an elementary school graduate, at least he is an honest man who does not earn money in a devious manner by working as a henchman for a “thief” (the white-collar burglar epitomized by Darso).

In some circles, it is widely believed that many highly educated people exploit their intelligence and authority in order to further exploit and marginalize others while accumulating power solely for members of their inner circle. This scene should serve as a slap across the face of those sarjanas who boast about their higher education, and yet in reality are nothing but con men (and women).

A new film by new director Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo brings us an intimate, immersive portrait of the lives of the poor.


A journalist for The Jakarta Post - one of the biggest English daily newspaper in Indonesia.

This feature article was published in the daily, on Tuesday, 18 April 2017, p. 24.

Click here to see and download a scanned copy of the file, and an interview with the director of TURAH, Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo.


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