Throughout the pre-production days, the two students groups created their own narratives within their own teams. During this period, I ensured to keep the groups separate to see how different or how similar the narratives would be. The students grasped elements from their surroundings and from films which they incorporated into their films. They did not, however, invent new models, roles or ideas that deviate from what was already present. Atia’s love story was based on the fact that Atia and Haidir are a couple and Eka recommended that they should be in the same group. Deslya, on the other hand, used to be a dancer and her background in dance was also incorporated into her film. With exception of the students who played the harassers, most of the students did not have many difficulties with acting when it was a close reflection of their reality. It was, however (at times) difficult to play characters which are not part of themselves. Though the student groups had separate meetings when they created their storylines, unavoidably there seem to be certain issues that are of collective concern. Firstly, the films illustrate the issue of migration which is evident in nearly half of the group, such as Eka, Atia, Puput, Faisal and so on. Secondly, the issue of street harassment seems to be normalized to some extent however frowned upon by people. This issue also relates closely with the idea of a gendered narrative, because the students argued that if a girl is the main character in a film with martial arts, the theme is unavoidably self-defense. Whereas, a male main character would have resulted in a film considering self-development.

Deslya and her group (Efriel, Dino, Puput and Dzaki) are preparing their storyline (left). Atia and Riko from her group are preparing their storyline (right).


According to the World Population Review consensus of the year 2000, the native Jakartans / Betawi people only consists of 27,65 of the population of Jakarta, the capital which currently holds at least 16 million people. By now the number of this specific groups has most likely decreased because of the still growing interregional migration to Jakarta. This social phenomenon was also noticed by the students themselves. From the fourteen students I have worked with, five of them originated from outside Jakarta. Those students who were born in Jakarta, many of their parents (either one or both) also originate from outside Jakarta.

In order to stay true to this social phenomena, the students had decided to integrate this in their narratives. In Atia’s story, Atia leaves her hometown in Central-Java, Tasikmalaya, to study in Jakarta. In Deslya’s story, Puput leaves Central-Java to study silat. In both cases, this is their actual situation, they both migrated to study in Jakarta. Both show the importance of migration in order to obtain something greater, which is in both cases education although different (McDonald et al., 2013; Wajdi, Mulder & Adioetomo, 2017). Atia’s reason to migrate to Jakarta was “mau kuliah, mau nyari ilmu”. Whereas Puput’s reason is “disuruh bapak saya, untuk belajar pencak silat”. During one interview, Eka also said that she originates from Central-Java because she was born there but now she lives in Jakarta. Usually, people from all over Indonesia travel to Jakarta not only for education but also for a chance to work and uplift their dire situations. Trying to act in line with this cultural phenomenon, the students also ensured that they brought with them items that showed that they were migrating. For example, Atia brought a typical carton box and Puput walks with a backpack and a large weekend bag. During Puput’s fight with Dino and Efriel who harass Deslya, Puput is scolding the boys in her local Javanese language, not in Indonesian language. Hence, in the film the subtitles in this part are written in italics to differentiate between the languages.

Puput is walking from behind the bus, with a backpack and weekend bag (left). Atia is walking away from the bus station with her weekend bag and card box (right).

Street harassment

The second element that recurred was the idea of street harassment. Both groups had the idea that the main girls needed a catalyst in order to study silat, and for both of them, it was the idea of self-defense. Coincidentally, during my first meeting with Eka, she told me that she is blessed to know silat because once she was harassed by men when she was on her way home at night. Initially, in her film Atia was not interested in silat. After her introduction scene at the bus station, she sees Haidir teaching Ilvi and Nabila, greets them and moves on. It was after Ilvi and Nabila saved her from her harassers that she decided to give silat a try. Since in the TGR group the majority was boys, most of them played also the harassers. The main girls were also saved by other girls and then invited to study silat with them under the supervision of a male coach. However, a troubling realization to both these groups concerned, the issue of street harassment seems normalized despite being frowned upon by the students. This normalization of street harassment seems not to be only with the students, but also with much of the Indonesian population which can outstretch to other forms of violence against women. Though the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women of the United Nations has been active since 1993, the Indonesian government’s focus was on rape and women trafficking. Though gender violence was finally discussed, there seems to be cultural rejection. Issues such as marital rape, incest, and sexual harassment belonged to the domestic space as speaking about gender violence could bring shame towards one’s community (Blackburn, 2004; Cochrane, 2017).

Deslya notices she is being chased (left). Atia is harassed on the street (right).

Gendered narrative

The trainer
Why are the trainer both men? Why did you not decide to have a female trainer with one female and one male student?” I asked the students during the feedback sessions. They answered that the first is a phenomenon they are used to. Faisal also argued that the majority of silat trainer are men and that with human resources available, the men should play the harassers. Thus, having a female coach would not be logical. Puput also confirmed that the majority of silat trainers are men. Then Efriel commented that men are often seen as the leaders, hence it is only natural that men are the trainers in silat. Also, Puput stressed the importance of women at home. She explained that even if there are women who want to become coaches, they have different responsibilities in the house as a housewife. However, Puput replied that even if the situation is dire, there are many women who still hold on and try to be trainers, despite their situation.

Jamal as trainer is surrounded by his two pupils and their friend Deslya in Deslya’s story (left). Haidir as trainer is teaching his three pupils in Atia’s story (right).

The main characters
Following this discussion, I asked the students how the storyline would have been if the story had been about the boys and not the girls. Virtually all of them replied it would not be about street harassment and self-defense, rather it would focus on helping other people and self-development. Hence, this can illustrate the gendered motivation to start practicing silat. This also corresponds closely with several answers I had from the students during the interview sessions. Some female students feel safer walking on the street having practiced silat, but for other it is also an reinsurance for their parents. For example, Atia told me that her parents felt safer if she would practice silat, but Atia herself wanted to become more independent. Though for Atia’s parent it is more connected to her safety, for Atia silat is connected to her self-development.
Deslya started in Indonesian dance, but she changed to silat because she feels that it belongs to her and she enjoys it.


Further reading on migration:
McDonald, P., Utomo, I., Utomo, A., Reimondos, A. and Hull, T. (2013). Migration and Transition to Adulthood. Asian Population Studies, 9(1), pp.4-27.
Wajdi, N., Mulder, C. and Adioetomo, S. (2017). Inter-regional migration in Indonesia: a micro approach. Journal of Population Research, 34(3), pp.253-277.
Further reading on street harassment:
Blackburn, S. (2004). Women and the state in modern Indonesia. 1st ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.194 – 219.
Cochrane, J. (2017). In Indonesia, Women Begin to Fight ‘Epidemic’ of Street Harassment. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Aug. 2018].
Man let off sexual harrassment charge because woman was ‘wearing trousers’
Further reading related to gender (in film and media):
Chen, Y. (2012). Women in Chinese martial arts films of the new millennium. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Godoy-Pressland, Amy. 2015. “Moral Guardians, Miniskirts And Nicola Adams: The Changing Media Discourse On Women’s Boxing”. In Global Perspectives On Women In Combat Sports, 25 – 40. Houndmills, Basingstoke Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Heider, Karl G. 1991. Indonesian Cinema. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Hughes-Freeland, F. (2011). Women’s Creativity in Indonesia. Indonesia and the Malay World, 39 (115), pp.417-444.