Archive for the ‘Indonesia’ Category

The Year of Living Dangerously

July 18, 2013


The 1965 Indonesian military coup was one of the most horrific events of the second half of the twentieth century. It killed over a million Indonesians, and it ushered in the Suharto dictatorship that ruled Indonesia for 31 years. It was an event that has not gotten as much attention in the West as it should.

Peter Weir’s 1982 film, The Year of Living Dangerously is set in Indonesia in the months before the coup. Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) is an ambitious young journalist from Australia, who has just been given his first foreign correspondent assignment in Indonesia. He meets a mysterious photographer named Billy Kwan (Helen Hunt). Billy arranges for Guy to interview the head of the PKI, the Indonesian communists, a major scoop that helps Guy’s career. Billy introduces Guy to Jill (Sigourney Weaver), who is an assistant to the military attaché at the British embassy. Guy and Jill have an affair, much to the disapproval of Jill’s boss. One day, Guy learns from that there is a shipment of arms coming from China for the PKI. Over Billy’s objections, Guy decides to write a story about this, even though everyone will know that he learned about this from Jill, which will hurt her standing at the embassy.

The Year of Living Dangerously is an oddly disappointing film, one that seems to promise far more than it actually delivers. There is a sense of foreboding during much of the film, because we know about the disaster that the characters can’t see coming. And some of the scenes seem to hint that more is going on than meets the eye. Yet the Indonesian coup ends up merely serving as the backdrop to a romance between Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver. There are depictions of poverty in Jakarta, and there is a scene of communists being executed by the military, but the the film is mainly about a group of wealthy Westerners. It would be interesting to see a film about the coup told from an Indonesian point-of-view.

The Raid: Redemption

May 21, 2012

One of the many perks of being a film buff is that you’re always learning something new. (Another one is that you have an excuse to eat a lot of popcorn.) For example, as a result of seeing Gareth Evans’s film, The Raid: Redemption, I now know that Indonesia has its own style of martial arts known as pencak silat. (Bet you didn’t know that, did you?) It’s origins are shrouded in mystery. (I’ve waited many years for an excuse to use the phrase, “shrouded in mystery”.) For centuries, it was handed down as an oral tradition among the tribesmen of Indonesia. According to Wikipedia:

    The earliest evidence of silat being taught in a structured manner comes from the Sumatra-based empire of Srivijaya where folklore tells that it was created by a woman named Rama Sukana who witnessed a fight between a tiger and a large bird. By using the animals’ movements, she was able to fend off a group of drunken men that attacked her. She then taught the techniques to her husband Rama Isruna from whom they were formally passed down.

That Rama Sukana must have been a tough cookie, for pencak silat is one badass way of fighting. It’s so badass, that the characters in this film often prefer to use it instead of simply shooting one another. That is badass.

Jakarta’s biggest crime boss, Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy), has his headquarters in a huge apartment building, in which most of the units are rented out to criminals who work for him. Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) is a corrupt and not too bright police officer who orders a SWAT team to break into the building and capture Tama. This turns out to be not a good idea, since most of the cops are killed within a few minutes. One of the few who are left alive is Rama, played by Iko Uwais, who is considered one of the best pencak silat fighters in Indonesia. He and the other survivors must figure out a way to get out of this death trap.

Although it has the requisite amount of double-crossing, The Raid: Redemption has a fairly simple story. It basically serves as an excuse for almost two hours of fight scenes. If you like martial arts movies, you will thoroghly enjoy this movie. If you don’t care for martial arts movies, not so much. Needless to say, I liked it.