3.5 out of 5
Being a good scholar doesn’t make you a good novelist. That was my impression when I read the Laskar Pelangi novel. The author, Andrea Hirata, went to UK and France for his education and graduated with cum laude. Well, congratulations to Mr. Hirata, on his brilliance. But still, I’m afraid I can’t say the same on the way his novel was written. The novel tells the story of Hirata’s childhood experience growing up in a poor village in Belitung Island, off the coast of Sumatra. Good premise, but how I wish the execution of words was better.
I finally watched the film after 4 years of being released, and I was pleased to see that it was better than the book. The film strips the story to the basic, without the wordy narrations like in the book. The story is simple: how to keep education going on a rural area stricken with poverty. It kinds of make me reminisce my own experience. I spent my primary school years living in a rural village with my grandparents and I have encountered kids similar to those depicted in the film. Kids who are unimaginably poor, but have very strong drive to study, even in a shabby and decaying school. For those who don’t truly understand you might think that this is a propaganda of Islamic education. But to tell you the truth, these rural areas are far from the government’s welfare reach. Most of the help they get is from religious charities. Since Indonesia has a very large Muslim population, of course Islamic charities are the predominant ones. But if you put it in rural areas of the Philippines or Latin America for example, the Catholic Church is definitely the dominant benefactor.
Anyway, the film does not depict the detailed situation of 1970’s Belitung Island. It simply tells the story from the perspective of the children, in which makes the film refreshing. This neither mind-boggling nor tear-jerking, you simply laugh to see the children’s attitude and cringe your eyebrows in sympathy when seeing how much troubles the have in their young lives. And it tells the fact that there are so many other Rainbow Troops spread all over the world, who knows if opportunity ever comes to them. So kids, stay at school!