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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Sleeping Dictionary

Have you ever watched the film “Sleeping Dictionary”? I believe most of us have watched it especially when Jessica Alba is the star of the film. Before I continue let me refresh your mind with the synopsis of the story (taken from

John Truscott goes to Borneo to work with the Iban. He reports to Henry Bullard, who gives him a "sleeping dictionary"--one of the locals who teaches him the local language and culture. And who he gives John is Selima. And while teaching him, John finds himself attracted to her. And we says it's not allowed, both the locals and Bullard forbid him to be in a relationship with Selima. But he defies them which has dire consequences. Written by
An eager young Englishman is dispatched to Sarawak to become part of the British colonial government, encounters some unorthodox local traditions, and finds himself faced with tough decisions of the heart involving the beautiful young Selima, the unwitting object of his affections. Written by Anonymous
In 1936, the expatriated young and naive just-graduated British John Truscott arrives to the Sarawak, a British colony, to work in the Iban society. The beautiful Selima is assigned to be his "sleeping dictionary", to live and sleep with him and teach him the language and habits of the locals. The reluctant John and Selima fall in love for each other in a forbidden romance. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A rousing question has been occupying my mind for quite a while after watching the film Sleeping Dictionary. Did we (Iban community) ever practice or even have the idea of a sleeping dictionary? It really boggles me.

In a way, “Sleeping Dictionary” is a beautiful love story or forbidden romance of an Englishman and Iban woman during that period of time, but I doubt that it would be to such extent that you ‘sleep’ with an woman just to learn the language and go about your mission to doctrine the Iban community of English ways. As I was watching this movie there were also some Iban words that I never came across with (the scene where Selima (Jessica Alba) teaching Truscott the body parts in Iban language).


I had a love and hate relationship with this movie.
I loved the way the idea of a forbidden love story depicted in an Iban community as the setting. Lush and mysterious jungle, traditional longhouse not forget to mention the macho Belansai and the beautiful Iban regalia displayed throughout the film.
However, what I do not like  was the way an Iban woman depicted as a sleeping dictionary to an Englishman as it looks as though it downgrades the dignity of the Iban women.

I hope the elderly can answer my doubt whether it a Sleeping Dictionary does exist in the Iban community or it is just as a means of selling this film.
I do not want to be denial, I just want to know the truth....