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TIFF ’23 Review: No good deed goes unpunished in ‘Andragogy’

‘Andragogy’ demonstrates doing the right thing can only lead to more trouble, especially on social media

A scene from 'Andragogy’
A scene from 'Andragogy’ courtesy of TIFF
A scene from 'Andragogy’ courtesy of TIFF

‘Andragogy’ demonstrates doing the right thing can only lead to more trouble, especially in the age of social media.

Before the internet and social media, people could do stupid things and the only way others would find out is word of mouth, which dissipates; a circulated VHS, which degrades; or a photograph, which burns. Coincidentally, forever didn’t apply very often. Now, people record and post everything online, immortalizing someone’s worst moment by sharing it with countless strangers, who in turn share their opinions of the person based solely on this momentary glimpse into their life. This cultural shift has had dire consequences, often escalating otherwise insignificant situations into epic disasters, as demonstrated in Andragogy.

Prani (Sha Ine Febriyanti) is a beloved school teacher, who uses a unique form of punishment called “reflections” to ensure her students learn from their bad behaviour. When a video of her confronting someone at a market goes viral due to a misinterpretation of the situation, her methods are scrutinized and her promotion is jeopardized. Issuing an explanation video only makes matters worse, producing a never-ending spiral of recordings, some supporting and others vilifying Prani. Low-rate vlogs use her story to generate clickbait headlines, while others try to capitalize on her popularity. Prani’s social media savvy kids try to help her navigate the situation, but even they lose control of the narrative as it snowballs out of control.

This film is a thoughtful commentary on viral videos and cancel culture. Prani’s life is turned upside down when she decides to take a stand, all because something she said is misunderstood and taken out of context. Of course, ignoring trolls and allowing the story to naturally drop off is typically the suggested course of action. When Prani does the opposite, she creates a chain reaction of videos and reactions that keeps her name front of mind for weeks. When her denouncers learn she’s a teacher, there are calls for her dismissal based on her conduct in a 30-second phone recording. The temptation to throw stones at people is not a new one, but it has significantly evolved so they can be hurled from everywhere at once.

The internet has emboldened people so they believe they have the right to invade people’s privacy and cast judgement. This story highlights the number of people who can be affected by a video going viral, regardless of the initial intentions, as well as the role consent can play. It’s actually shocking how many different videos are created, stemming from this one incident, because everyone decides to weigh in with their two cents to either defend or condemn. Consequently, even some of those who try to help have their words and intentions twisted beyond recognition, yet another victim of assumptions and internet trolls.

It’s difficult to predict what will happen next in the film because trends are also difficult to predict, but there is a positive to be found in the end that sends its own message about real-life connections.

Andragogy had its world premiere in the Discovery programme at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Read other reviews from the festival.

Director: Wregas Bhanuteja
Starring: Sha Ine Febriyanti, Angga Yunanda and Prilly Latuconsina

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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