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Indonesia, 1985 (MIFF 1986)

Director: Teguh Karya

Beautifully designed and photographed, with exquisite use of colour, this stylish and atmospheric film is set in West Java in the early 1930s at a time of particularly right-wing and repressive Dutch colonial rule, only a few years after the Youth Congress of 1928 which declared the aim of a future Indonesia united as one nation under one language. Yet as the critic writing in the Jakarta weekly Tempo has noted, this large historicaj theme of the struggle for national freedom is allowed to exist only as background to the more personal and individual story, which has a kind of autonomy from the historical theme. The characters in the film include members of the independence movements (forming an underground network of resistance) and theatre people, in particular members of a type of opera troupe found throughout South East Asia at the time. known as"Stamboel theatre. The nationalist movement had contacts with the Stamboel theatre, for this type of opera was regarded as low class and beneath Dutch society. But theatre people had printing presses for printing their programmes, and such presses could be used by nationalists in printing political pamphlets, Here, as well, contacts could be made with journalists and writers.

The film depicts the efforts of a young man, Goenadi. to avenge the death of his friend Asep. shot by the Dutch when both were involved in undercover activities, a death for which Goenadi in some sense feels responsible. Asep was the brother of Miss Ining (played by popular Indonesian actress Jenny Rachman], a primadonna in the Stamboel theatre, who is an acquaintance of Goenadi's. Utilising his talents as a violinist, Goenadi moves among elite Dutch circles, seeking his opportunity for revenge, his motives and his intentions not fully understood by himself or by his friends in the independence movement.

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