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, fine portrayal in a fiction film, of aspects of a traditional regional culture.
Set in the 1930s, and narrated like a ballad from the past, The Tiger From Tjampa tells of how a young man, Lukman, seeks to avenge his father's murder by learning pencak silat, a traditional form of self defence, based on the movements of animals. The pencak silat seen in the film is regionally specific to West Sumatra. (Silat in other Indonesian films, is often based on kung fu.)
This subtly developing drama is exceptional in its evocation of a unique milieu. Almost everything in this film, except the main actors, is from West Sumatra. All the film's quite varied music is from West Sumatra, and so are its dances. In its dialogue the film strikingly uses peribahasa - maxims and proverbs handed down for generations within the oral culture - with their characteristic lilting Minangkabau rhythms. As well, the film displays the intense spirit of community that underlies educational practices in an oral culture.
This is not simply a story of revenge, but is an exploration of the practice and philosophical basis of pencak silat, and its relation to Islamic values. Lukman is repeatedly shown to be easily provoked. Besides learning silat, Lukman must learn perseverance and self restraint. The film contains numerous scenes of students practising pencak silat, with lessons conducted by a famous West Sumatran master, who appears in the film.
- David Hanan