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Looking Like Learning in Setinggi Langit

A creative life is the pursuit of experiences, of pushing the envelope. While most people are in pursuit of maximum comfort, those of a more artistic mindset often sacrifice this for the expanding experiences that reject said comforts. Costume designer Gratannia Pandjaitan has spent her time on award-winning film sets (My Lunatic Lucy among others) but has equally found herself in varied parts of the world taking part in the types of productions which expose her to different influences, thus widening her compositional palette. The film Setinggi Langit required her to use her skills to create the appearance of the people of West Sumatra in this touching tale that celebrates the education of the youth in this area. While Setinggi Langit had the approval and backing of the government of West Sumatra, it was most definitely not a cakewalk…which seems to be part of the enjoyable challenge for Pandjaitan.

Sometimes you’re called to embrace the momentary nature of things, which is exactly what Gratannia did while working on Setinggi Langit. Following a two-hour flight and a five-hour bus ride to the district of Sijunjung, Pandjaitan discovered that the research she had done was not completely on point. Seeking out the advice of locals, she reassessed and restructured the wardrobe. Together with her army of assistants, she made last minute purchases at the local market and recreated a full wardrobe change on the spot. These consisted of local patterns (batik or songket), head wraps, and flip flops for women, batik shirts or loose polos shirt for the men, and uniforms for the government officials. Many wardrobe designers will reinforce that common looking costuming is often the most difficult to manifest convincingly.

The story itself is based on regular people. Bunda Upik has returned to her hometown from the city and starts a free pre-school called Paud Muaro Ilmu for less fortunate children in the district of Sijunjung, West Sumatera. Both as a community and as individuals, there are numerous roadblocks to the education of the young people of this school. The school building is destroyed but Bunda Upik enrolls them in a competition for a new facility, which they win. In order to communicate the difference between those who live in the village as compared to a bigger city, Gratannia paid attention to the small details; things like the superhero graphics tees which many of the children wore that were poorly designed and the fact that the conservative women of the area wear hijab but not the stylish ones typical to more modern areas. Costumes were treated to have a “well worn” look which communicated that these were hard working people who understood the value of the education at the center of the plot and the upward mobility it afforded the next generation.

This touching drama which illustrates the importance of education in a well-rounded society has been embraced by the Indonesian government for its poetic and vital portrayal of this topic, as a means of promoting the country’s free kindergarten system. Gratannia remarks at her happiness in the film’s success stating, “The story is important. It was like a whirlwind travelling to this village to film and getting the entire wardrobe for the cast together in a twenty-four-hour period but sometimes that frenetic energy works in a positive way, it tests you to bring your best. I was honored to work on this film that has been so praised. The people of the village where we filmed were so kind and humble. They treated us so well, like Hollywood stars in fact. The unexpected bonus to working on Setinggi Langit and travelling to this remote location…the food at this village was good…really good!”

Author: Kelly King

Looking Like Learning in Setinggi Langit Reviewed by JaamZIN on 3:23:00 PM Rating: 5
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