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ATHEIST

Indonesia, 1974 (MIFF 1986, Retrospectives)

Director: Sjuman Djaya

This remarkable film (made in 1974 by one of Indonesia's most talented directors. Sjuman DJayal may have become a lost film if there had not been a project mounted to make internegatives and new copies from the single surviving print, a 16mm subtitled print owned by Sinematek Indonesia. Based on a well-known Indonesian novel. ATHEIST traces conficts experienced by a young Muslim, Hasan, over issues of politics, sexuality and religious belief and practice, as new ideas from overseas gain force in Java in the 1930s and 1940s. Set in the hill town of Bandung in the mountains south east of the Dutch colonial capital Batavia (now Jakarta), the film is energetically and stylishly directed, weaving a complicated story involving personal relations, history, and religious and ideological debate. Early in the film Hasan is drawn into a circle of friends who have returned from abroad (or are influenced by overseas trendsl: Rusli, an anti-colonialist revolutionary steeped in Marxisttheory: Rusli's sophisticated, if vulnerable, female friend Kartini: and the painter Anwar, an atheist and anarchist, the son of a former regent who worked for the Dutch. It is within this loosely affiliated friendship circle, with links with revolutionary movements and surrounded by increasing social and political turmoil, that the conflict between Islamic tradition and modern trends is played out. The film culminates in a spectacular climax set at the time of mounting Islamic resistance to occupying (apanese forces during the Second World War.

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