Salawaku – Movie – Review

Salawaku Poster

A simple road-movie


A road-movie about a native Malukan boy named Salawaku and a wealthy modern metropolitan woman from Jakarta, named Saras, set out on a journey to find Salawaku’s mysteriously lost sister.

Year: 2017
Country: Indonesia
Languages: Indonesian
Genre: Drama
Director: Pritagita Arianegara
Screenplay: Iqbal Fadly, Titien Wattimena
Cast: Karina Salim, Raihaanun, JFlow Matulessy, Elko Kastanya, Shafira Umm


Salawaku (newcomer, Elko Kastanya) is only an ordinary child living a tough life full of hardships at a tender age. His parents had passed away a long time ago, leaving his older sister Binaiya (Raihaanun) and him as orphans. Because of all the difficulties and hardships he went through in his early years, Salawaku developed a very robust mind.

Elko Kastanya - Salawaku

Now that you know the names, let me tell you a couple of things about the meaning of ‘Salwaku’. It will not take much time, I promise. In the opening moments of the film, we can see ‘Salawaku’ practising their traditional form of martial arts. During those scenes, I noticed that Salawaku was defending himself with only a thin piece of wood. That same piece of wood is called ‘Salawaku’! ‘Salawaku’ is a traditional Indonesian shield which also means ‘protection’ and ‘repellence’.

The film starts with scenes of Binaiya (a quick fact: ‘Binaiya’ is the tallest mountain on the Indonesian island called Seram/Ceram) fleeing away from the island, alone in the water. The scenes are breathtakingly beautiful while we see her miserably paddling the boat all alone because of unknown reason. She has run away from home.

Salawaku is visibly frustrated because of his missing sister. One night, he remembers something Binaiya told him. Binaiya always wanted to go to Piru (a town on the Island of Ceram). He talks about this to Kawanua (Played by JFlow Matulessy), a brother-like figure to Salawaku, about it and then he steals a small boat. He at once leaves in search for Binaiya.

Elko Kastanya - Karina Salim - Saras - Salawaku
Salawaku and Saras

On the way to Piru, he finds a woman sitting alone on a small remote island. Out of curiosity the boy approaches her and offers her some of his food and thus begins the friendship of Salawaku and Sara. A friendship between two people having a different background, different age and different issues.

Through his film, Pritagita Arianegara does try to questions the social stigmas that women unfairly face due to the patriarchal society. This criticism is not outright visible to most audiences. Many might not even realize this movie to be a social movie and may consider it just another love flick but none-the-less the message is there. This movie ‘actually wanted to sue the widespread acts of sexism around us’ and I agree with it. There is a double standard in most, if not all, patriarchal societies where men and women are judged very differently, and unfairly, for similar acts committed. A single mother is considered loose and promiscuous whereas a man with numerous women hanging from his arm is considered manly and gets hero-like stature attached to his name.

At first, this movie seems to be a light, heart-warming movie showing the various types of love between parent and child, between friends, between lovers, between siblings but the crux of the story goes deeper. Probably, after reading this review the viewers might be able to pick up on the extra details and discover the hidden story inside the story.

Saras and Kawanua - Karina Salim - JFlow Matulessy - Salawaku
Saras and Kawanua

But, the movie is definitely not serious, no-joke movie. It actually turned out to be quite comical. I guess it probably is because of the relationship between Salawaku and Saras. The two are from different regions of the same country yet their cultures, traditions and lifestyles seem very different. It is quite giggle-inducing to see both get something or the other wrong because of these cultural differences. Like for instance, when Salawaku casually drops Saras’s mobile or when Saras has to explain the country kid Salawaku about certain metropolis terms.

The cinematography is really a sight to behold in this movie. The absolutely gorgeous scenes of Indonesia are shown so vividly that it takes the viewers on the truly magical journey a gives fuel to the wish to visit Indonesia.

Despite all this, the true strength of the movie lies the in the acting department. The acting by all the main actors is outstanding and very realistic. Salawaku’s dialect really seems to be like that of one from the suburbs or village (though I don’t really know the language spoken in the movie, it just felt like that to me). He enacts and projects the emotions of his character really well. Even the chemistry between the all the characters was quite enjoyable.

  • Story
  • Acting/Cast
  • Music


A simple road-movie with beautiful sceneries, which will touch your heart!

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About Mit

A proud introvert with a love for the big and small screen world. Have an obsession with the world of Asian Cinema. Welcome inside my Asian plagued mind.

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