Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Tribeca ’12: Postcards from the Zoo
Ragunan Zoo is a slightly run down Eden.
The city around it is jungle. One
innocent young woman will learn the nature of the world outside in the
singularly named Edwin’s Postcards from
the Zoo (clip
screens today at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.
in the zoo as a young girl, Lana simply stayed there, falling in with a group
of itinerant workers who do odd jobs around the park and sleep on the
premises. Growing up amongst the
animals, she seems to have special bond with them, particularly the
giraffe. However, her sheltered
existence is turned upside down when word comes of the migrant workers’
imminent eviction from the zoo.
by a mysterious street magician dressed as a cowboy, Lana is lured out of the
park, becoming his assistant and ambiguous companion. While she acclimates to their performance
routines, it is not long before she is working at a massage parlor in an even
more ambiguous capacity.
Lana, Postcards should have never
left the zoo. In those early scenes
Edwin and cinematographer Sidi Saleh create a breathtakingly delicate
fable-like environment. It is
fascinating to watch the quietly subtle ways Lana interacts with the
animals. The Ragunan Zoo is also a truly
wonderful setting, looking a bit wild and over-run by forest, in a way that further
heightens the fantasy atmosphere.
once she leaves the idyllic zoo, Postcards
becomes a largely by the numbers end-of-innocence tale. While there are arresting visuals to be found
throughout the film, usually involving return trips to the zoo, we have been
down this road hundreds of times before.
Yes, it reflects the reality of Jakarta, which is why it clashes with
everything special in the film. It is
also getting emotionally exhausting to see yet another little girl abandoned or
abducted in a film from the region. The
filmmakers ought to start picking on someone more their size.
if Postcards is undermined by its
second half, it is impossible to take your eyes off Ladya Cheryl’s Lana. Her earnest engagement and exquisite vulnerability
gives the film an emotional center of gravity, preventing it from becoming a
mere exercise in archetypal tropes. It
is haunting work.
There were obviously some crack animal trainers contributing
their talents to Postcards. Cheryl is also an absolutely luminous
presence. However, viewers are more
likely to fall in love with her or the Ragunan Zoo than Edwin’s movie. Richly crafted but somewhat disappointing, Postcards from the Zoo screens again
today (4/28) as this year’s Tribeca Film Festival enters the home stretch.
Labels: Indonesian Cinema, Tribeca '12