It’s a little known fact that Indonesia has the highest Muslim population in the entire world. With 87% of the population being of the Islamic faith (and most of the remaining 13% being Roman Catholic), it means that the country is incredibly conservative.
For women in Indonesia, this puts a high amount of pressure and heavy expectations on them. Women are expected to settle down, marry, have children and be good mothers and wives – and it also means that if you are a queer woman, you shouldn’t expect your sexuality to be accepted by the masses.
This is something that new narrative feature film, In the Absence of the Sun, wants to show. Directed by Lucky Kuswandi, the new film follows the lives of three different Indonesian women over the course of one evening, all in different circumstances but each of them struggling because of the country’s societal norms.
One of the women is named Gia who returns home to Jakarta (the capital city of Indonesia) after building up her career as a filmmaker in New York City. The use of ‘home’ soon appears to be ironic, though, as she experiences a huge, unexpected culture shock.
So, as queer woman having a hard time in the big city would do, she calls up her ex, Naomi, and asks her for a tour. Sadly though, even Naomi recognises that the religious beliefs of the country means that “there’s no place for [them]”, and she states that eventually they’ll both have to become “breeding stock”.
Then, there’s Indri and Mrs Surya, two women who are more than happy to prescribe to the traditional way of life. Indri is just 24 but she’s desperately searching for Mr. Right, hoping that he’ll be good to her and pay her bills, and she’s turning to the online dating scene to help her find him.
Mrs Surya, meanwhile, has just lost her husband and after finding that there’s “nothing to hang onto anymore” since people only know her because of her husband’s name, she’s devastated to find out that he had another woman in his life; a prostitute named Sofia.
Because of the dramatic nature of films, In the Absence of the Sun is perhaps not as hard-hitting as a documentary would be. However, if you’re looking for some kind of insight (at least, a small one) into Indonesian society, then it’s still a prime example.
Visit the film’s Twitter page to find out where you can watch it.