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EXALTED GUEST

Indonesia, 1955 (MIFF 1995, Buried Treasures - Indonesian Comedies From The Early Independence Period)

Director: Usmar Ismail

Filmed on location in East Java in 1955, Tamu Agung is about the visit of a dignitary from Jakarta to an isolated rural village. The dignitary fails to come and in the atmosphere of height­ened expectation, a pedlar of herbal medicines is mistaken for the VIP and accorded a ceremonial welcome in the most elaborate lavanese style.

Acclaimed as a brilliant political comedy, Tamu Agung's satire is directed at the increasing role of charismatic political leadership in the newly created Republic of Indonesia. Tamu Agung was not liked by the Sukarno Govern­ment but they did not try to ban it. Of central importance is the quack modelled on Sukarno but also of interest are scenes showing the deliberations of the local assembly of village heads. Here traditional village lava is represent­ed as a highly consultative society at the level of the district councils but bewildered by goings on in the national parliament of Jakarta. These scenes brilliantly interweave modern political discourse (including a militant feminism) with archaic Javanese rhetoric taken from traditional shadow-plays. The scene of welcome presents us with the most stirring mass scene of Reog Ponorogo (a spectacular tiger and peacock dance) ever filmed.

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