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MAX HAVELAAR

Netherlands / Indonesia, 1976 (MIFF 1977)

Director: Fons Rademakers

Eduard Douwes Dekker, the author of 'Max Havelaar', which was published in 1860, was an official in Java during the colonial period of the Dutch East Indies His efforts to expose corruption and colonial exploitation resulted in his recall to Amsterdam, where he wrote several books attacking the system of local administration based on systematic plunder and slavery He wrote under a pseudonym 'Multatuli' ('much have I suffered') and achieved the success as a writer that he had failed torealize as an administrator.

Fons Rademakers' film is set in Java, in the poverty-stricken province of Lebak The local native ruler, the Regent, has reduced his peasants to slaves in order to keep up his princely status on the small sums allowed him by the imperial power The Dutch assistant-resident, Mr Slotenng, writes a strong protest against the ruler's tyranny, advising that measures be taken against him, but he is poisoned before he can deliver the note.

His successor is a highly regarded young Dutch civil servant, Max Havelaar Appalled by the conditions of poverty, malnutrition and sweated labour that he finds, he believes that his government will support a campaign to eradicate local corruption After warning the Regent that he will be deposed, Havelaar finds himself steadily isolated, his garden over-run by poisonous snakes, his diet reduced to tinned food He can find no evidence proving the murder of his predecessor, and natives who had offered to testify against the Regent, disappear. Havelaar complains to his superiors, confident that they will support him But the corruption has extended even further than he believed possible...

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