Tuesday, March 05, 2013

4. A Traveling Cinema

I originally conceived of Pulang Kampung III as a traveling cinema and a way to say thank you to the Batak villagers, and especially our ‘movie stars’, for their assistance in the production of our film, Rangsa ni Tonun.

In the case of Legacy in cloth, my book publication about Batak textiles, I gave away copies of the book. A book is accessible. You open it and turn the pages. Handing out videos of a film just wouldn’t be the same. Playing the film makes so much more sense. That idea opened up so many possibilities.

I remember my first fieldwork stints when electrical power was limited and televisions even more scarce. If someone in the village had a TV, he would throw open the windows of the house and the whole village would crowd around it to watch the TV along with the owner. Now, thirty years later, this is my inspiration for Pulang Kampung III. We will bring a screen, a projector, a computer, and a generator in the unlikely case that the latter might still be necessary. We will set up in the middle of the village and turn on the film. The rest will happen like magic. Local personalities and circumstances will render each performance unique and memorable.

I remember attending performances of Opera Batak. I would set off into the night with fellow villagers and arrive at the place where the Batak were staging their Opera. We would all hug our sarongs around our upper bodies to keep us warm in the chilly mountain air. It was a lovely social occasion, something unusual and exciting for a village. I imagine it to be something like the arrival of minstrels in medieval Europe. Presumably Christianity was spread in a similar way by the missionaries.

It was fun and easy to mull on the theme. I began to imagine the conversations that would ensue after the film was shown. Why not organize discussions after the film is played and focus the energy that it elicits? And Mas Nashir suggested that we should invite our film stars to strut their stuff at each location. Demonstrate the weaving techniques shown in the film. Yes! And show the results of their work in the exhibition of textiles that will be set up in each location. And if we were to bring our own food and have it cooked in the village, our visit would turn into a festival and involve everybody! Merriment, education, celebration, new meetings – and hopefully new awakenings. I don’t think that it happens very often at all that the villagers are put in the limelight and their talents appreciated.

The Boat Budaya was essential to this idea. The boats on Lake Toba are large and can accommodate alot of people and equipment. A boat voyage is fun, relaxing and healthy. Strains of music played on the boat will waft through the air and announce our arrival far and wide. So much easier and more aesthetic than careening through the villages in a vehicle with loud speakers to announce the event.

It has to be fun. We want to build positive and happy associations with local culture and especially textiles. Needless to say, it already feels like a shame if the voyage of the Boat Budaya is only a one-off affair….but the ideas that build on that thought will no doubt be the focus of a future blog.

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