The Pembantu (The Maid)
The Pembantu is a documentary told through archive material about Indonesian children’s nannies, who in colonial times cared for the children of Dutch families in Indonesia and often accompanied them to the Netherlands. The film is told from the perspective of a single pembantu, Marsiyem. She is emblematic of the group as a whole. Her position, as an integral part of a Dutch family, while at the same time belonging to the natives, reflects the colonial relationship. The film takes place in a time their position between two cultures is under pressure. The story of Marsiyem of symbolic for the colonial relationship as a whole.
1939, Marsiyem, a young Indonesian woman is in Bandung as a pembantu for a Dutch family. She accompanies them to the Netherlands, where she learns the Dutch language and adopts their habits. There she meets Indonesian students who are striving for a future independent Indonesia. Through all these new impressions and thoughts, she looks more critically at colonial society and her own position in Indonesia after her return. With the Japanese occupation of Indonesia in 1942 her Dutch family is placed in a camp, and Marisiyem falls in love with Riboet, leader of a group of active nationalists. He encourages her to teach the children of the campong to read and write.
After the capitulation in 1945, she realizes that "normal" life can no longer return and that, in the struggle for Indonesia's independence, she has become the "enemy" of the Dutch family. Together with Riboet she fights for the freedom of her country, for their daughter and for herself. Riboet is killed during a police raid.
It is 1949, when Indonesia officially becomes an independent state. Riboet´s family tries to force Marsiyem, a now unmarried single mother, into an ´honorable´ marriage with her brother-in-law.