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Roti short film review

★★★★

Directed by: #KikiFebriyanti

Written by: #KikiFebriyanti

 
Still from Roti
Still from Roti

Thirty seconds is not a long time, but as Kiki Febriyanti proves admirably in her film Roti, it is certainly enough time to tell a story. This is a short and simple film about an unnamed teenage girl (Alexandra Kumala) who is trying to make a discreet purchase. She feels awkward enough to rely on a code that the boy serving her doesn’t understand. Only when the woman who works at the shop arrives does she get what she came for, leaving the boy totally lost.


Set in Indonesia, Febriyanti’s film employs the use of slang to afford the protagonist some privacy. The girl asks for ‘roti’ (‘bread’) as a euphemism for sanitary towels, and the boy’s misunderstanding not only cleverly exploits this gap in knowledge between the teenagers’ lived experience, but also exposes a pervasive taboo. Kumala’s character feels too embarrassed to talk about a natural bodily function, and the boy isn’t expected to know about it either way. Even when he is visibly confused by her insistence that the bread he chooses isn’t the right kind (“The usual pack of 12,” she tells him), she continues to disguise her request.


Dimas Adiputro’s naturalistic cinematography, plus the decision only to use diegetic sound, ground the film beautifully while Febriyanti explores how people who menstruate are expected to keep that fact – and any relevant information – secret from people who don’t; and if they must discuss it, they must do so euphemistically. As we see, it takes an older woman’s presence to resolve the situation. In that sense, the film presents both the welcome solidarity between the younger and older generations and their mutual understanding, as well as the universal frustration that the topic is taboo at all.


Roti is a clever little film, surprisingly layered and quietly feminist, but the fact that it manages all that in thirty seconds alone is enough to recommend it.

 

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