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WHIPFIRE

Indonesia, 1958 (MIFF 1994, Indonesian Regional Cinema)

Director: D. Djayakusuma

Djayakusuma's Whipfire, an earthy and stirring drama about peasants opposing an exploitative village head, utilises an East Javanese tradition of staging ceremonial whip fights as its central motif: instead of using guns, the film's antagonists use whips and engage in savage whip duels - resulting in spectacular and powerfully prolonged action scenes.

In addition to a plot and action scenes which have analogies with American Westerns, the film uses traditions from Bombay movies, interspersing its story with elaborately choreographed songs between lovers.

This hybrid Eastern/Western further mixes its ingredients by deliberately combining elements of different regional cultures in the one film: although ostensibly set in East Java, the film was shot in West Java, and its music is based on traditional music from West Java. At the centre of the film, though, it is the Indonesian philosophy of gotong royong (mutual assistance) that binds the villagers together in their efforts to create a more just village society.

In the history of the Indonesian cinema, Whipfire has a kind of mythological status as a film which embodies both in form and content the abstract ideal of some early Indonesian cultural theorists, who hoped that a new national culture would emerge with independence, based on a synthesis of different regional elements. Whipfire is one of most powerful of films from the early Indonesian cinema, and is very accessible for Western audiences.
- David Hanan

See also...

THE TIGER FROM TJAMPA

Filmed largely on location in 1953 in villages in West Sumatra (the region of the matri-lineal Minangkabau people), Djayakusuma's The Tiger From Tjampa is still highly regarded today as an early ... More »

LETTERS FOR AN ANGEL

Garin Nugroho's evocative feature, Letters For An Angel, was shot on Sumba, one of the chain of islands in the Nusa Tenggara group, stretching from Bali to Timor. The film mixes documentary and ... More »

Prambanan

The restoration of the famous 9th century Hindu stone temple of Tjandi Prambanan—the camera brings out the dynamic movement and realism of the Ramayana reliefs carved on the temple walls ... More »

LEAF ON A PILLOW

Leaf on a Pillow depicts the rough and tumble daily life of three young homeless kids on the streets of Yogyakarta. During the day they scrounge a living in the crowded, nar­row streets of the ... More »

ATAMBUA 39 CELSIUS

"Wonderfully captures nature's harsh beauty and provides a window into the colorful tumult of life in a part of Indonesia that's often overlooked." - Hollywood Reporter ... East Timorese refugees ... More »

THE RONGGENG DANCER

... ... Nyi Ronggeng is probably the most remarkable fiction film ever made about popular culture and folk traditions in Indonesia. It sets its story among the members of a Ronggeng dance troupe, and ... More »

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