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Budi Pekerti Film Review: A Reflection on Social Media Witch-Hunting

Author: Ektada Bilhadi Muhammad

Promotional poster for the film Budi Pekerti.

Director Wregas Bhanuteja’s new feature film, Budi Pekerti (or by its international release title,
Andragogy) sees the young auteur’s first return to the silver screen after the much acclaimed
Penyalin Cahaya (Photocopier). The movie centers around Bu Prani, an elementary school
teacher noted for her unique forms of punishing students, or in her words: reflections, who, after
a viral video of her engaging in heated dispute with a civilian regarding the etiquette of queuing,
sees herself at the forefront of a social media mass hate campaign. The attention brought upon
by the viral video induces a series of problems for Bu Prani and her family, rendering them as
subjects of public mockery, threatening her job security, and causing strife within the family
itself, as she and her children struggle to navigate how to rehabilitate one’s image in the often
judge-first, read-later culture so prevalent in today’s internet landscape.
Much like his previous production Penyalin Cahaya, Budi Pekerti shows little hesitance in
driving home its messaging to its audience, the movie feeling at times equal part feature film as
it is public service announcement. Though it is certainly not without reason, even if the movie
can perhaps indulge in a bit of overdramatization in depicting the fervor of netizens, the
phenomena portrayed within the movie is by no means bound to the realm of fiction. In an
environment where sharing posts come first and fact-checking comes second, third, or hardly
ever done at all, it lends to a social media climate where users tend to ingest whatever it is they
read on the internet without putting any more thought into whether or not the thing they just read was something that actually happened and if it did, is there more to the story and what the
context behind it may be.

A lot of this can be seen in the prevalence of fake news or hoaxes that have plagued social
media nowadays. With sensationalizing headlines and misleading or sometimes even outright
false content, the threat of misinformation through these fake news articles has become
something almost unavoidable in surfing the internet today. Though hoaxes have always been
an issue for ensuring accuracy in news coverage and finding information, the rise of social
media has made this issue something far more difficult to contain compared to the times before
the advent of the internet. In the past most people got their information from established news
outlets, be it from newspapers or TV and radio broadcasts, where there is at least a greater
amount of care put into verifying and ensuring the accuracy of their content. Compare that to
today, where the internet has given the freedom for anyone to post about anything, which is not
necessarily a bad thing, as it allows anyone regardless of their standing to share news, events,
and important that they deem important to the rest of the world. But because of that, it has also
become much harder to guarantee what one is reading, hearing, or watching is something that
is actually true, as most people are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as a major news
outlet in verifying their content.

The cast and crew of Budi Pekerti at the Jakarta Gala Premiere on October 30th, 2023.

It is for this reason that Bhanuteja, speaking at the premiere screening of the event in Jakarta
on October 30th, said that he hopes that Budi Pekerti will not just be another movie, but can
also be somewhat of a social movement. Seeing that the responsibility of ensuring the accuracy
of information on social media lies in each and every one of us who use it, he hopes that this
film will inspire people to do their due diligence in verifying the news they share on the internet
and in not blindly trusting anything that comes up on their screens. By putting a name and a
face to the people whose lives have been negatively affected by misleading social media posts

through the struggles of Bu Prani and her family as shown in the movie, Bhanuteja and the rest
of the wonderful crew behind Budi Pekerti wants to remind us the effect that our words and
actions in the digital world can have on actual people, a fact we so often forget when we never
care to look beyond what we see on our screens.

The cast and crew at the Indonesian Film Festival 2023. Credit photo: Tribunnews

The cast and crew at the Indonesian Film Festival 2023 Credit photo: Tribunnews

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