Despite the constant talk of a free, democratic world, segregations, discriminations and violence rooted in prejudice against people seen as “different” remain rampant. We imagine that this antagonism towards those who are different is often rooted in ignorance of how they operate in real life. Our aim with this documentary is to challenge preconceptions of pesantren, or Islamic boarding school — to show the life and teachings inside it as the boarders and teachers see and feel it.
BOARDING SCHOOL offers an intimate look at life inside a pesantren in Cirebon, West Java, that led by a woman. The film follows multiple characters at the school, whose stories are intertwined with other sub-plots and incidents to show a rarely seen view of Islam in Indonesia. A lively, traditional Islam that practices understanding and tolerance/inclusiveness, something that the west would call democracy is slowly revealed in their daily life; in discussion classes where students debate fiercely about how Islamic teachings affect their daily lives; during a lecture by the leader when she champions diversity in all aspects of life, including religion; in student meetings where decisions are negotiated in democratic ways; and during a stand-up comedy competition, where students practice how to preach about Islam with humor.