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3 Ways to Understand the Power of GRIT

by Farida Haji

GRIT. An Indonesian documentary like nothing you have seen before.

Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia. 

A silhouette of men sitting motionless at the edge of a mudrock smeared with dirt emerges as the frame lights up the screen. Overlooking an open land as far as the eye meets the horizon, the earth spitting boiling, dense liquid enveloped by thick smoke rising in the air.

This image showcases the essence of the Indonesian documentary GRIT. Directed by Academy Award® winner Cynthia Wade & Sasha Friedlander and filmed over six years. 

The film chronicles the turbulent life of the residents of Sidoarjo. A journey of resilience, survival, and raising a generation of children who are not ready to give up what they have lost. The documentary takes us on an emotional journey and inspires a sense of hope. 

The Unheard Industrial Disaster

In 2006, 6-year-old Dian’s life changed overnight when her mother, Harwati, had to leave everything behind and run from an industrial catastrophe – the Lapindo Mudflow.

The mining disaster left 60,000 people displaced, countless dead, and over 16 lush and thriving villages buried deep under a tsunami of mud that continues to flood the area even today. 

Still from the film GRIT, streaming on Qalbox

Many of us are privileged and blessed. Your house, your cozy spot, the serene view outside your window, the sounds of nature, and the hustle and bustle of everyday life! 

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the displaced inhabitants of Sidoarjo. A year after the mud explosion, Dian’s father died of cancer. Harwati is positive it was due to the chemical releases from the mudflow.

There are stories that need to be told. And GRIT, with its cinematography, has captured raw human emotions and highlights the rise of a young teenager, Dian, and her journey of political awareness and activism. 

3 Reasons You Should Watch GRIT

1. Fighting Rakus

Artist Dadang Christanto carves RAKUS on the muddy land. He creates over a hundred 2-meter-tall human figurines. They are erected at the mudflow disaster site, not only as an homage to honor the lives that perished but as a vision of the strong survivors. The survivors who continue to raise their voices against the greedy (rakus) multinational company, Lapindo.

Still fro mthe film GRIT, streaming on Qalbox

2. The Price of Being Poor

Harwati and many others become tour guides at the Lapindo site to make a living. Helplessly looking at tourists posing, creating happy ‘travel’ memories, making the burial site of the villagers hopes and dreams a backdrop of their fancy photoshoots. On the other hand, the Lapindo owner stands strong: Affluent, influential, and undisturbed.  

3. The Might of Dian’s Voice

Dian grows up seeing her mother fighting for justice. For the lives lost, the time passed, and the futures ruined. She musters courage and raises her voice and gathers the support of her community and others as the 9th anniversary of the tragedy approaches.

For her mother, her friends, and herself. 

Still from the film GRIT, streaming on Qalbox

Power of Grit

A riveting must-watch on Qalbox, GRIT shows us the force a child’s voice has. They are the future, and they can lead. The documentary highlights a simple message: When life throws you down (literally in the mud), rise up!

Once you touch the bottom, there is only one way out: RISE UP!