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Workers praise Wiji Thukul film but lament failure to show his labour activism

Kabar Buruh - January 22, 2017

Jakarta – As many as 240 workers from nine trade unions took part in a group viewing of a film about Wiji Thukul titled "Let the Words Rest" (Istirahatlah Kata-Kata) at the Cineplex 21 film theater, Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural centre, Jakarta.

The group viewing was supported by the film's production team with the intent of inviting labour groups because Wiji Thukul was seen as being very close to workers.

"Thukul in his time was very close to workers, he was present on the ground in labour advocacies. So we invited our comrade workers to watch [the film] together", said Wilson, one of the organisers of the group viewing.

The group viewings were divided into schedules, 12.15pm, 2.50pm and 7pm. Kabar Buruh also had an opportunity to take part in the group viewing at 2.50pm together with members of the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI) and the Indonesian Labour Union Confederation (KPBI), who packed out one of the theaters.

In interviews following the screenings, workers had different opinions about the film which tells the story of the time when Thukul was on the run in Pontianak, East Kalimantan. Such as the view expressed by Hetty Susanti from the Indonesian Populist Trade Union Federation on the film and Thukul's poems which were so inspiring to workers.

"He voluntarily left his family for the sake of the people. And it showed also that his struggle was not easy. While he was on the run, in the film he was visibly afraid, fear that was identifiable, knowable and tangible. So he kept moving around", said Hetty.

According to Hetty, the film should be watched by all labour groups and the general public so that they get to know Thukul better and from various aspects.

Ilham Jimbo from KASBI also appreciated the film that presented a fighter for democracy and workers who fought the New Order regime of former President Suharto. It is very rare that Indonesian films show a figure from the labour movement.

Nevertheless, he also had criticisms of the film. For Ilham, the film failed to show how Thukul was identified with workers and resistance against Suharto's authoritarian regime. "Workers hoped the film would show him organising workers or demonstrations. His conflict with the regime was not really depicted", he said.

According to Ilham however, the film did indeed picture how during his time on the run Thukul was afraid and chose silence. "Actually much of the symbolism and narration in the film related the oppression by the government, although it wasn't seen clearly enough in the visuals", he added.

The film "Let the Words Rest" premiered on January 19. At its first showing the public's enthusiasm for the film was extremely high as was demonstrated by how quickly tickets sold at various cinemas.

On Tuesday January 24 a group viewing of the film will take place with Wiji Thukul's family. (gum)


Street performer and poet, People's Democratic Party (PRD) member Wiji Thukul disappeared in February 1998. It is suspected he was a victim of the military abductions along with other activists which disappeared in Solo (Central Java). The bodies of Thukul and three other PRD activists have never been found and they are presumed dead. Prior to his election, in June 2014 President Joko Widodo said that cases of missing persons should be solved immediately so that the country can look to a better future, adding that he knew Thukul well and he has to be found in whatever condition. Since being elected, his administration has made no attempt to fulfill this pledge.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Buruh Nonton Bareng Film Wiji Thukul "Istirahatlah Kata-Kata"".]

Source: http://kabarburuh.com/2017/01/22/buruh-nonton-bareng-film-wiji-thukul-istirahatlah-kata-kata/.

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