Notes from the Fringe (2019): Witnessing Evictions with the Sensory Ethnography Approach

Film Review

The United Nations in 1993 have issued a resolution stating that forced eviction practices are considered as major violation against the human rights, especially the right to adequate housing. Indonesia has also ratified The International Convention of Economical, Social, and Cultural Right with Undang-Undang No. 11 Tahun 2005 and protected the right to housing in Undang-Undang Hak Asasi Manusia in Article number 40. Undang-Undang Dasar Negara Republik Indonesia regulate the right to adequate housing in Article 28H Paragraph 1. The protection of housing rights is a constitutional mandate.

Forced evictions are also related to other forms of human rights violation. For example, the use of physical assault by law or military officers to the citizens when an eviction is being executed and the children who stop going to school for a long period of time because they have to move along with their parents. The government also often fail to give proportional solutions to such violations. Such things include the lengthy time taken to relocate the citizens to another building, indecent life quality in the new place, and the compensation fee that doesn’t add up to their loss. An eviction could even result in the loss of a person’s livelihood if the evicted house is a place for their business.

Eviction, framed in a different way, is depicted by Aryo Danusiri in the Notes from the Fringe (2019) film. No excavator still has to destroy building debris. No conflict or repression is done to the citizens by the personnel of Civil Service Police Unit (Satuan Polisi Pamong Praja), the National Army of Indonesia, or the police. Tears and sad gazes due to the eviction that could make us feel touched are not seen.

This film—that consists of two channels played altogether—recorded the day-to-day activities of the citizens before and after the eviction. The left projection takes place in the house of a butcher in the slums of Ciliwung River banks, Jakarta, during the rainy season in 2014. The scene is shot just a few months before the major forced eviction started as a part of a mitigation project funded by the World Bank.

Flood becomes a playground for the children. Brown and murky water—consisting of various bacteria and virus—doesn’t reduce their fun and excitement. They don’t have a lot to think of, rather than playing, swimming, enjoying the flood water, splashing water to their peers. All done with laughs and jokes every once in a while. These children haven’t thought about the messy arrangement of the city waterways. In the midst of Jakarta’s hustle and bustle and the absence of playgrounds due to forced evictions, can the children find a new form of playground?

The projection on the right is recorded a month after a sporadic eviction. The sound of construction machineries clashes with the sound of buildings colliding. The citizens try to collect any usable iron frames, cement, and bricks. It seems that they are reluctant to leave the area, even after their houses are flattened to the ground, until the government gives out a fitting compensation or comes up with other solutions after discussing it with them.

 Interestingly, there’s graffiti on a remaining wall half-buried. It says, “Maybe we lost, surely one day …,” In any eviction practice, the people put up a fight. Nevertheless, evictions on their houses, kiosks, stores, and buildings don’t stop the eviction process. Hence, walls become an alternative medium for people to express their thoughts and feelings. This method can also be used to fulfil the need of existence, either for each personals or the community.

Notes from the Fringe (2019) presents an intersection of audio-visual production and a sensory ethnography approach, offering reality interpretation through the senses. There’s another possible approach to understand life and community cultures in many different places. It’s not always done verbally, such as in testimonials or voice overs, commonly used in conventional documentary films.

Notes from the Fringe (2019) is one of the five films that will be displayed in the Sensory Ethnography: Eye Witness program. The film is exhibited throughout 2-7 December 2019 from 13.00-21.00 WIB at Kedai Kebun Forum.


Written by Nizmi Nasution

Translated by Windy Elprida

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