Category Archives: movies

Welsh Pencak Silat

The violence-entertainment industry comprises gaming, the worldwideweb, TV and film. A few weeks ago a new star showed up in this firmament. “The Raid: Redemption” is ( a film) about “A SWAT team (that) becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs“. At least that’s what  IMDb writes. This famous site rates the film a  wonderful 8.4. I myself  first read about this martial art’s orgy  when  Calvin wrote his  positive review on it. And he is not the only one. At the Toronto International Film Festival it was honoured with the Midnight Madness Award as the best action film released in recent years. So perhaps a Welsh director Gareth Evans will lead Indonesian cinematography to the top of the movie Olympus.

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Paul and Leonard in Indonesia

Some Dutch directors seem to be fascinated by Indonesia.

This summer the internationally renowned Paul Verhoeven, who directed spicy box-office films like “Turks Fruit” ( Turkish Delight) in the Netherlands and among others  Basic Instinct in the US, announced plans for a film based on a novel, “De Stille Kracht” (Hidden Powers”). It is about a European colonial family yielding to the  mysterious powers which in the framework of European orientalism was believed to be  so characteristic  of Indonesia. It will largely be made in RI. Probably starting this year.

He is not the only one looking South-East for artistic inspiration.

The director of documentaries, Leonard Retel Helmrich, has a lifelong relation with the archipelago. His mother was Indonesian, his wife is Javanese, his Bahasa Indonesia appears to be ( at least to me) fluent and he has been making a series of critically acclaimed and in terms of attendance successful documentaries on Indonesian topics. We, my wife and I, saw quite a few of them . It is no wonder that part of my own perception ( some may say prejudices) about the country originate from his movies.

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Nationalistic Blind Eyes

Nasty facts from national history tend to be swept under the carpet. Some become taboo. Some are made into state secrets. Others are denied because they don’t fit nationalistic perceptions. Or because revelation would harm the interest of influential groups and individuals.

First about a Dutch blind eye.

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“Rawagede” is such a nasty historical fact in Dutch history. This week, 69 years ago, troops executed 431 male villagers of what is called now Balongsari ( West Java). A war of Independence was going on, yet these men were plain civilians without any proof of involvement with Indepence fighters. In other words major Wijnen and his men committed a war crime in ’47. The facts were known at the time by the operational commander, by the commander in chief and by the government. Yet no prosecution did take place. All of them turned a blind eye on “Rawagede”.

It is hard to recognize such a facts. They don’t fit in the assumption the Dutch fought a just war over there, which was the general belief at the time in the Netherlands. They are hard to reconcile with the national pledge to human rights and Geneva conventions. They are at odds with the pretension Dutch soldiers behave decently, like nationalistic naivety dictates. They tarnish the self-image of veteran soldiers. And they may hurt the taxpayer..

Now, at long last, the surviving widows of the executed men of Rawagede, have brought charges against the Dutch State. They want the Dutch to officially recognize to have acted unlawfully and demand financial compensation. So one national blind eye may be forced to see now.

Next an Indonesian blind eye.

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A movie was censored by the Film Censorship Board the other day.

“Balibo” is a romanticized Australian movie based on historical facts which took place in East Timor in ’75. It deals with the killing of five journalists from Australia, New Zealand and Europe, by Indonesian special forces at the start of the Indonesian invasion of the former Portuguese colony. But the film has been banned from the theatres in Indonesia. It is considered not to be fit for release for Indonesian audiences. The public has to be protected from potentially nasty facts for fear of reopening old wounds between Indonesia, East Timor and Australia.

Just like the Dutch believed their colonial wae as just, so many Indonesian officials and the Army still believe their invasion of East Timor was just. The enemy, Fretilin, in their perception, consisted of communists ( = devils). Like ’65/’66 showed you being labeled ‘communist’ was lethal when members of TNI or nationalistic vigilantes, were around. But the killing of the journalists was accidental, they claim; they were killed in a crossfire. The movie itself and pretty overwhelming historical accounts however show a deliberate killing, allegedly aimed at preventing independent reporting on the siege and capture of Balibo. The official Indonesian reaction to this has been: “Don’t bother us with facts, we have made up our minds”. Though objective observers believe there are very strong indications of unlawful killing, Sutiyoso, the former governor of Jakarta and involved as a veteran special forces soldier in this specific operation, however said film because should be banned because it degrades the army: “The TNI is not like that. TNI follows the principles of Pancasila”. And apparently an anachronistic LSF with the authority to ban films in the name of politics and ideology, agrees.

Yet the families of the victims want the alleged perpetrator brought to court. And fortunately Indonesians, the press, do seem to claim their right to judge for themselves. Students and journalists are trying to get more screenings.

Gradually on both sides of the globe blindness can be replaced by a clear sight. Or so I sincerely hope.