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“Take a break and rest, oh words. We will rise again.” Dissident poet Wiji Thukul recites to himself while under exile from the oppression against intellectuals by the US-backed Suharto regime in Indonesia, in July 1996 – in director Yosep Anggi Noen’s previous feature Solo, Solitude, which premiered in Locarno in 2016. In The Sciences of Fictions, silence is also imposed on its main character Siman. The time is 1966 in the early years of what was known as the ‘New Order’. Siman is an inadvertent witness to what he shouldn’t have seen: the staging of the moon landing, the giant leap for mankind. With his tongue cut off and silenced, he attempts to communicate what he saw through slow-walking gestures mimicking the moonwalk, as if the truth weighs heavy on his shoulders. Despite not being taken seriously, he persists.
In a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Noen looks back and reimagines an alternate history to the one that we’ve always been told. Our current era of fake news might have us believe such fabrications to be a recent phenomenon. In fact, the world has always known people and governments with the power to rewrite historical facts, and Indonesia is a culprit among many others. If this was staged, what else could be a hoax? Performed by author and theater director Gunawan Maryanto, who also played the poet in Solo, Solitude, Siman absorbs the attention of his audience with his measured steps, but to what extent his gestures have communicated their purpose is left uncertain.