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Impetigore (2019)

Ghouls' new series, For the Culture, looks to explore the horrors certain communities experience. We're starting with the indigenous zombie film that has us SHOOK, Blood Quantum. A film whose name sends us on a journey through history and a film that twists our stomachs (but in a good way).

Sources in episode:

Women’s Pain and Wayang in Impetigore

Violence Against Women in Indonesia is Systemic & the Government is Not Doing Enough to Unravel It

Impetigore Drags You Through the Curse of Country Life

How Impetigore Escapes Midsommar’s Folk Horror Expectations

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The History of Violence Against Women in Indonesia & the Movements Fighting Back

Kat Kushin

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

There is a theme of violence against women in the film Impetigore, perpetuated by men in the film that is actually a pressing issue in Indonesia. What we see on screen very early on is the dangers for a woman at night, alone in a toll booth, with the threat of violence by a strange man. Later we see a village with SO MANY pregnant women, that a child is buried every few days. In an article from Horror Obsessive, Women’s Pain and Wayang in Impetigore, we get an overview of the film’s portrayal that links back to societal issues in Indonesia. The article states “Overall, the violence against, the rage of, and lack of social mobility for women and children depicted in Impetigore shadows the real-life struggle for women’s rights in Indonesia. The prolific and resilient feminist movement of Indonesia is both spurred and challenged by oppressive traditionalism. In Indonesia, teenaged girls are leading a movement to end child marriage, and the government which is influenced by fundamentalist religious groups rejects feminist legislation and is complicit in systemic violence against women.” Impetigore is saying a lot in this film that may not be obvious to viewers without context.

There are many movements taking place in Indonesia calling for an end to child marriage, and an end to systemic violence against women. The violence in child marriage is blatant, as it takes children and forces them to be wives and mothers. It forces children to raise children, and disenfranchises women from education and independence. In addition to child marriage, “Violence against women comes in many forms, including physical abuse, psychological violence and sexual violence. The perpetrators, aside from individuals, can also be governmental or non-governmental institutions – cultural, religious and educational.”

There is a theme throughout human cultures where systemic violence and oppression against a group is perpetuated by societal complicity with said violence or oppression. People not speaking out against something horrific because it has always been that way, is explained away by those in power, or they are scared of falling victim to it themselves if they were to stand up and fight it. It ultimately comes down to a survival instinct. In indonesia, there are movements such as the Women’s Anti-Violence Movement (Gerak Perempuan) which is an alliance of non-government organizations and civil society groups. In an article on the Jakartaglobe, Violence Against Women in Indonesia is Systemic and the Government is Not Doing Enough to Unravel It, this violence and oppression is called out as a systemic issue.

In fact, in an annual report conducted by the National Commision for Women, the noted a 14% increase in cases of violence against women in 2019, with a shocking total of 406,178 cases of violence. The article quotes Mutiara Ika, who is the coordinator of women’s group Perempuan Mahardika said “Violence against women is systemic because it occurs repeatedly in a neverending circle. The government has been neglecting the marginalization and repression of women," This was said at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation headquarters.

Where this film has been acclaimed for shifting the lense of folk horror from Scandinavian and European Folk horrors, that often occur in broad daylight, Impetigore shifts a non-white lense, and shows this violence and horror at all times, day and night. The film Impetigore is a big deal for the folk-horror sub genre. In an article by Screenrant, How Impetigore Escapes Midsommar’s Folk Horror Expectations, we get an overview of exactly how meaningful and redefining Impetigore is. However, it all links back to what is happening in Indonesia, and that the horror at all times angle is telling. As the director of Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, Asfinawati claimed “Violence against women is a very complex issue because women experience it not only in public but also inside the home. It’s systemic violence because it happens mutiple times in all sectors and spaces.”

The article goes on to outline the injustices in the patriarchal job market, and government bills aimed at domesticating women even further. I recommend giving it a read. There’s a long history of violence and oppression against women in Indonesia and across the globe. This film was saying a lot.

Media from this week's episode:

Impetigore (2019) Director: Joko Anwar

Summary by IMDB: Maya with her best friend, Dini, tries to survive in a city without a family. She realized that she might inherit a property from her rich family. Maya returns to the village with Dini and unaware of the danger that was waiting for her.