Sometimes you need a reminder that not everyone wakes up with high speed Internet at their fingertips. Somewhere in the world, even a cell phone signal is a cherished blessing.
That’s what Purnomo Aziz 79-minute Indonesian film, “Guru Dian,” reminds us: to look at things from another point of view.
Aziz’s feature film takes us to a remote and rural village in Indonesia, an half hour walk from any drivable roads.
This is a village surrounded by high rolling mountains cloaked with green vegetation — the kind of place where Mac Book Pros, televisions and cell phones look like alien objects.
Here, children grow up aspiring to become like their parents — entering the cycle of humble migrant workers and farmers. Small chores, like looking after the goats or minding the store, take precedent over schooling. And the village’s school has long been abandoned by both teachers and pupils.
That’s how Dian (Aji Sanrose) finds the dilapidated hut where she’s been assigned to teach. Her classes are empty because school isn’t as important as finding food.
The film shows us socioeconomic pressures in a small and poor rural community, but fails to emphasize why or how schooling can better these villagers’ lives. The village boys will take over their father’s trade and the village girls will be sent to a foreign country to work low-paying jobs as factory workers to earn money for their families.
Young and idealistic, Dian’s a transplant with a giving heart and Western values, but she lacks the insight that comes with experience. While she firmly believes that a child’s place is in school, she flounders at explaining how or why to the village’s elders. Without their support, it seems impossible to teach.
Slowly, but surely, though, Dian earns the children’s trust and attendance (Part of it involves installing a television in their school). But it’s hard to see how her schooling can change these student’s lives. And if that’s the lesson Aziz’s trying to teach us, it’s one that’s hard to reconcile.
“Guru Dian” was directed by Purnomo Aziz and written by Sad Purnadi, Risdi Sulaeman and Dirmawan Hatta. The film premiered in Western New York as part of the tenth annual Buffalo International Film Festival.