Short Film Review: Tilik (2018)

An Indonesian short film, Tilik has been watched 17 million times on YouTube since it was first uploaded on August 17, 2020. Supported by the Yogyakarta government, it is a phenomenon that the 32-minute piece had gone viral on social media in Indonesia.

Tilik tells the story of a group of women who board a truck from the village to visit the Mayoress, who is in a hospital in Yogyakarta. The tradition of visiting a patient in groups is a common practice in several regions of Indonesia; after all, the title means "to see", in particular "to see the patient". The focus of Tilik, which has also become the focus on social media, is the gossip of the women.

One point of interest is in how a male director portrays women. In showing the way three characters interact and propagate or deny rumours about an offscreen character, many viewers felt emotional resonance with the stories as they have seen such behaviour reflected in their mothers. Even so, Tilik fails to accurately capture the realities of everyday life in Indonesia, and only serves to reinforce a stereotypical depiction of female characters and the conversations they engage in.

Another point of contention is in the plot progression. In the course of Tilik, screenwriter Bagus Sumartono consciously chooses to villainise the character who chose to abstain from proliferating unsubstantiated information when it turns out that the Mayoress actually could not be visited, contrary to the news she had received. Conversely, the character who had been engaging in malicious gossip was vindicated. This gives the impression prejudices that cannot be substantiated can be real. This is quite dangerous for today's technology and information era.

Tilik has a wide scope for discussion, something that has occurred consistently throughout the history of Indonesian cinema. The way in which this short made waves online is reminiscent of a documentary film Sexy Killers (2019), directed by an Indonesian independent journalist, Dandhy Laksono, which was uploaded to YouTube before the 2019 presidential election. This documentary film went viral and was discussed massively.

The culture of film criticism began to grow in Indonesia during the development of post-New Order cinema under President Soeharto, which is essential for a healthy film ecosystem. Tilik was awarded the Maya Cup and became the 2018 JAFF Official Selection film, as well as the 2019 Official Selection World Cinema Amsterdam. Tilik can be watched on Ravacana Films' YouTube channel.

Written by Akbar Rafsanjani
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