Senayan library: A place for film, fact and fiction

LIBRARY LISTENING: Two blind library members are scanner facility that turns textbooks into audio. The facility enables them to enjoy several books unavailable in braille.

The National Education Ministry is arguably one of the more people-friendly government agencies in Jakarta. It welcomes all, in particular fond readers of the written word and devotees to the moving picture.

If you have free time for intellectual pleasure, pursue it at the ministry's library. The Perpustakaan Pendidikan Nasional (National Education Library), or Library@Senayan, is on the ground floor of the main ministry building at Jalan Sudirman, Senayan.

This library is a learner's oasis with 18,000 books, 5,000 audio visual materials and 80 print media titles. Opened in November 2004, the library's main collection comes from the British Council at the Widjaja building across the street.

Like any public library, you are free to walk in without having to submit to an electronic spot check.

One feature that immediately draws visitors in is the giant, flat-screen TV at the far end of the reading room. Sit on a sofa, put on earphones and watch the latest BBC world news broadcast.

After absorbing an hour of TV news, switch to the printed version. You'll find the day's edition of Kompas, The Jakarta Post, Republika and several other major Jakarta-based papers, as well as the locally printed International Herald Tribune. You also have your choice of news magazines: Tempo, Gatra, Time and The Economist.

Many of the visitors are young, student types. Regular members, who pay Rp 150,000 a year for membership, can use the library's desktop computers and the Internet is accessible for 12 hours of the day. A premium membership grants you free Internet access for whole year. For that, you have to cough up Rp250,000. If you are not a member but want to go on line, the charge is Rp 10,000 an hour. Members who bring their own laptops can use the free wireless facility.

MOVIE HUNT: A library member looks for her favorite films at the Education Ministry’s library in Senayan, Central Jakarta. The library is also equipped with a TV to play the movies.(JP/Ricky Yudhistira)MOVIE HUNT: A library member looks for her favorite films at the Education Ministry’s library in Senayan, Central Jakarta. The library is also equipped with a TV to play the movies.

The digital video discs are also popular. Many are from the BBC and other U.K. networks. You can find David Attenborough's acclaimed nature series, Harry Potter and vintage David Lean films. One is a 1945 film, Brief Encounter, a typical English film. A doctor (Trevor Howard) meets an attractive woman (Celia Johnson) by chance on a railway platform. Both are happily married but after two more chance encounters, they become drawn to each other.

If you want to extend film watching into an intellectual exercise with an exchange of ideas, the library offers a monthly screening for all visitors. On the third and fourth Saturdays of the month (and sometimes the fifth when there is one) at 12 noon, you can watch a feature film for free. They are films based on real events, which deliver a message of humanity. After the screening, the film viewers give their off-the-cuff critiques.

In March, the library rolled the award-winning Indonesian masterpiece Cut Nyak Dien. Actress Christine Hakim portrays a warrior chief in Aceh, whose name is the film's title. Her protracted guerrilla warfare in the late 19th century against the Dutch made it difficult for the colonial army to subdue the territory.

The April film was Freedom Writers. It is a film about a California teacher, Erin Gruwell, who is assigned to a high school in a troubled neighborhood. The majority of the students seem destined to fail their high school exams. She teaches them how their exposure to violence and intimidation is parallel to what Jewish teenager Anne Frank faced in Holland under the Nazis during World War II. Through strong will and sacrifice, however, Gruwell motivates her students to write moving diaries of their life experiences. They end up graduating and some move on to college to become motivating teachers themselves.

The May screening was Sometimes in April, which tells the true story of an African family caught in the 1994 ethnic conflict in Rwanda. After the showing, one viewer warned of provocateurs who play one section of the community against another.

Another viewer believed a central message to the film was people of different ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds in a community must learn to develop mutual appreciation to live peacefully and prosper together.

After treating your eyes and ears to a film, you might want to treat your taste buds. The delightful, dim-lighted La Biblio caf* is located to the right of the library and offers light snacks. Try a plate of singkong (cassava) for Rp 5,000 and a cup of Jawa oolong tea. This blend of jasmine and green tea sets you back Rp 5,500.

If the stomach pleads for something more substantial, try the nasi mangkok, a rice dish, for Rp17,500. This is a glass bowl of rice with shredded chicken in thick, sweet kecap (soy sauce). A smattering of small cuts of carrot, onion, mustard green, green peas and sweet corn come with it.

So if you have a Saturday free and want to do something meaningful with it, visit Library@Senayan.

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Happy endings come at a high price

I often had trouble deciding whether the TV series Sex and the City was feminist, anti-feminist or if indeed it needed to be one or the other.

On the one hand, the show depicted four independent women who talked openly about sex in great detail, a once taboo act for women. The show addressed realistic problems (some more realistic than others) faced by the modern-day city girl. Carrie would present these issues with a question at the beginning of each episode -- Do men prefer women less successful than them? Is monogamy realistic?

On the other hand, the show depicts women as superficial shopaholics whose lives revolve around their dates, one-night stands and relationships with men.

There is, however, no question about the new film, Sex and the City: The Movie.

The film's major flaw is not its lack of plot or even its lack of character development, which was to be expected -- but rather its depiction of women.

As a woman, I found the film insulting. All that the six-year TV series had accomplished was destroyed in a mere 142 minutes.

Women are portrayed as two-dimensional, with their only interests being men and materialism. Similar to the TV series, it opens with a voice-over from Carrie: "Women come to New York for the two Ls -- labels and love."

The film starts off with a cheap stereotype, which is carried on throughout.

It seems in New York people are not only looking for love, they are looking for marriage and stability, and at any cost.

In the film, Carrie is weak and sidesteps any conflict between her and her man, Mr. Big. She is afraid of causing a stir and afraid of instability, or life without a man.

The film centers on the wedding between Carrie and Mr. Big. They decide to get married because it seems like the right thing to do, in the interest of finances and stability. It is an engagement devoid of romance.

Early on in the film, Big leaves Carrie and her multi-thousand-dollar Vivienne Westwood dress at the altar. She then spends the majority of the film wallowing in self-pity. Compared to this wallowing the resolution is quick and straight to the point. All is forgiven after a set of plagiarized love letters. And then comes the twist; Carrie, it seems, could actually be to blame for their falling out.

In the end, she compromises her values, friendship and dignity for a man who calls her "kid" and "young lady". The power imbalance between the two is, unfortunately, palpable.

And while the movie revolves around Carrie, the other three women -- Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda -- have equally undignified subplots.

In the TV series the three women were very strong characters, from the sexually promiscuous Samantha to the traditional Charlotte and the cynical Miranda. They were uncompromising within their own individual set of morals. In the movie these characteristics are diluted, and at times the characters, except for perhaps Charlotte, go against their values as displayed in the TV show.

Samantha becomes fat to the dismay of her friends, although it is difficult to see the alleged bulging belly. Charlotte, who is the brunt of some unsavory toilet humor, stops her daily running routine because she is pregnant. And Miranda, distraught by her own relationship problems, doesn't satisfy her man enough and is a suggested reason for Big's inability to turn show up on the big day.

Added to the mix is Louise, Carrie's new assistant, from St. Louis with an obsession for Louis Vuitton and love.

Consumerism was always a part of the TV series. But over-priced designer goods came with social consequences, ethical dilemmas and at times, realistically, debt. In the film, there are no such consequences as Carrie shops big and spends big.

At the beginning of the film, Big and Carrie buy a penthouse apartment in the Big Apple. The apartment is airy and has ample room. Daylight streams through the large windows. It is "heaven" and close to perfection save for one major design flaw: the size of the closet. Without a walk-in wardrobe where is our petite, fashionable protagonist supposed to house her numerous clothes, shoes and accessories?

When Big unveils her walk-in wardrobe, bigger than most New York apartments, Carrie gasps and declares her love. Love and labels are intertwined, and women, therefore, are shallow.

Where in the TV series the four main women had successful careers -- Samantha was a successful PR agent, Miranda a partner at a law firm, Charlotte a successful art dealer and Carrie a columnist of a major metropolitan daily -- the trials and tribulations of the workplace play an almost nonexistent role. This helps to reinforce the two-dimensional stereotype of women.

The women screeched and squawked every time they greeted each other, and I shuffled in my seat, cringing and lamenting the loss of four great characters.

Perhaps the problem is in the format; after the book, Sex and the City was only ever meant to be a TV show. In the TV series the women did not persevere through bad relationships and did not put up with the arrogance or ignorance of their partners. The format required them to move on, and with each new episode there was a new conundrum. The playing field was even.

But with the desire to have a happy ending in the movie, Carrie becomes feeble. Carrie must live happily ever after in the arms of one man even if that means forgoing her dignity and the dignity of women alike.

This article was written by Jemise Anning and Angela Dewan, published at The Jakarta Post

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Komeng hits the big screen

Comedian Komeng, who has spent almost his whole acting career in TV shows, will debut on the big screen in the upcoming sex-comedy flick Anda Puas Saya Loyo (You're Satisfied I'm Tired).

"This is my first film," the 37-year-old comedian was quoted as saying by Antara, adding he had previously turned down offers from film producers as he did not want it to affect his TV show schedule.

In the movie, Komeng says he was given the freedom to improvise. "I didn't read the script. I was only given the synopsis," he says.

Anda Puas Saya Loyo, which was produced by K2K Production, claims to be the first film featuring top comedians, such as Bedu, Mastur and Ruben, and features actresses like Andy Soraya and Yeyen.

The film follows the controversial film of the same genre, Mau Lagi (Want More), which was banned from being screened by the censorship board.

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Monogamy, marriage new values at 'Sex and the City: The Movie'

They were once four savvy single women whose friendships came before love affairs, whose shoes came before a mortgage and whose men never came before they did, or else they'd be thrown out of bed. They were Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte of HBO's instant-hit series Sex and the City.

Ten years after the TV show's debut, promiscuity and independence is replaced with monogamy and marriage in the newly released Sex and the City: The Movie.

Dr. Astrid Henry, gender and women's studies professor at Grinnell College, in Iowa, the United States, and author of the essay Orgasms and Empowerment: Sex and the City and Third-Wave Feminism, said the film was conservative, contrived and inconsistent with the TV series.

"I was bothered by the ending, which has all the women married, except for Samantha, who, at the end of the film, is 'old, fat and alone'. She's left in a sort of 'loser' role, even though she was always happy with her autonomy in the series. The ending of the film makes her seem much more pathetic than the show did," she said, adding the characters had all become more like the character Charlotte in their quests for marriage and monogamy.

Noted writer Ashley Sayeau said the characters had evolved and the transformation from bachelorette to bride was in line with what the characters wanted.

"As in the series, the film did a good job of showing each character come to terms with what she wanted out of her life -- not what society wanted for her, or what men wanted for her, or even her friends, but what she wanted. I loved that Sam became single again," she said.

"The show said to them, if you want to marry, great. If you don't, that's great too. The same goes with the decision to have children or choose a particular career."

In its time, the show received more praise from feminists than criticism.

Dr. Nicola Evans, a media and cultural studies lecturer at the University of Wollongong, Australia, said, "Sex and the City broke new ground in the rather conservative terrain of American sitcoms. It refused to worship at the altar of marriage and monogamy, daring to suggest there might be other objectives in life worth pursuing."

Sayeau said, "It was one of the only series in the last decade that showed independent women making money, having relationships and just existing on their own terms."

Henry said, "The show made people more aware of female sexuality and the idea that women are sexual beings with desires -- and that they have a right to talk about their desires in public."

The show impressed feminists around the world with its portrayal of women as intelligent sexual beings, but critics agree the TV series' socio-economic politics did not reflect most viewers.

"The show represented a particular vision of female empowerment -- one focused on white, economically privileged, working women, who did not seem to be facing any of the traditional forms of oppression addressed by feminism," Henry said.

Evans said, "The series draws on the very familiar and very narrow demographics of TV land where to be visible, women must be white, young, attractive, well-paid and obsessed with expensive shoes."

Sayeau is aware of this skewed demographic, but said there was room for such a depiction on TV.

"Try to remember that it is a work of popular culture, not a literary theory text. As such, it's no surprise that it made certain concessions, like lots of shoes and nudity. But overall, I think the show did a lot more good than it did bad."

"Critics get upset by all the sex the women have, and all the money they make. They call these things as if they are making an aesthetic argument, but in reality it's a moral judgment. In real life, after all, women are making more money than ever and marrying later," she said.

In the film, however, the characters' socio-economic status has been pushed up a notch. The four are depicted as the shopaholics they always were -- times 10. When Samantha is feeling tied down in her relationships, she goes shopping, filling the trunk of her car with Chanel and Gucci goodies as she drives off with her new pooch, resembling a 50-year-old botoxed Paris Hilton.

"The film totally sidesteps questions about money and makes it seem like everyone is now in the upper tier financially, and that having three published books has made Carrie a wealthy woman -- highly unlikely -- who can now afford to give her assistant a US$5,000 designer bag," Henry said.

Sex and the City: The Movie offers a dramatic breakup, a Cinderella marriage proposal, a Vivienne Westwood wedding dress and one perfect husband.

These larger-than-life fantasies will please those looking for glamor and a fairy-tale ending, and will frustrate those hoping the characters had frozen in time just as they were in the TV series -- when it was all about women, sex and the city.

source: Jakarta Post

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