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Indonesia, 1980 (MIFF 1988, Retrospectives)

Director: Teguh Karya

First shown abroad at the London Film Festival in 1980, November 1828 - the most internationally renowned of all Indonesian films - is, at last, to be screened in Australia. November 1828 is set during the Java War (1825-1830), a war which partly arose from internal intrigue in the 'Vogyakarta Court, but also as a Central Javanese reaction to the attempts by the Dutch early in the 19th Century to impose upon the Javanese a modern colonial bureaucratic state. The film concentrates, however, not on the leader of the Javanese forces, Prince Diponegoro, but on the role in the war of ordinary Javanese villagers - the "Rakyat" (common people). In particular the sustained contrast developed in the film between the culture of the Javanese villagers, and that of the Westernised officers of the occupying Dutch colonial Army (most of them Indonesian, i.e. having Dutch fathers and Javanese mothers) can he seen as a deliberate attempt to define the cultural specificity of the Javanese, and the effects of Western influence. In scenes depicting the deliberations of the Dutch/Indo forces, November 1828 cleverly utilises many of the conventions of Dutch painting (particularly of Dutch group portraiture) and also of Western drama, as though these conventions express the values of the West and its pervasive body language. On the other hand, the forms used to depict the Javanese are drawn from Javanese traditions or were especially developed for this film. The film can be enjoyed both as a multi-plot historical-action film, and as a challenging account of cultural differences. - D.H.

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