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Fishing Platform (Jermal)

Jermal image
(2008, 90 minutes)
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Korean Studies Auditorium 6:30 PM

A thoughtful portrayal of the relationship between a father and a son, Jermal explores themes of social and physical exclusion and the pain of growing up. The plot is given a unique twist by its setting on an isolated fishing platform, or jermal, in the middle of the Malacca Straits off North Sumatra.

There are between 1,200 and 1,500 such jermals employing more than 5,000 kids (ages 10 – 17) in Indonesia. Their world consists only of these rickety wooden structures not much larger than a tennis court sitting a few meters above the waves. Typically 10 workers live on a jermal, half or more of whom are children.

The work is extremely hazardous, and the average day can last between 12 to 20 hours at a stretch, lifting heavy nets filled with anchovy-like fish, sorting the fish from stinging jellyfish or sea snakes, then boiling, salting and drying the catch. The minimum stay is three months, without any time on shore. The wage is meager, with beginners getting $5 a month, while an experienced boy may get $10.

The central character in the story is Jaya, a 12-year-old schoolboy whose orderly life is dramatically disrupted when, after his mother’s death, he is sent to a jermal to be with his father, Johar. Johar, a taciturn and solitary figure, is an escapee from the mainland with a past he is determined to reject. Snubbed by his father, Jaya is left to fend for himself in a tough new environment that transforms him from a naive schoolboy into a hardened survivor. Jermal was an official selection at the 2009 Rotterdam International Film Festival. –Kabar Indonesia

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