In Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, more than four million students attend more than 29,000 Islamic boarding schools. This film offers a rare insight into daily life at one such traditional school. From the students’ sporadic contacts with home, we gather that considerable sacrifices are sometimes made to finance their education.
The camera discreetly documents the lives of the young people both inside and outside the classroom. The editing also does little to color our opinion. This open style leaves room for us to get to know the personalities of the young people—and it also matches the approach to teaching at the school. The students aren’t told what to think, but how to think, and are encouraged to show tolerance towards other religions and non-believers. The mixed school also endorses equality between men and women, drawing its justification from the Koran. As the opening titles explain, the type of Islam taught here has been practiced in Indonesia for centuries, but is under threat from rising conservatism.