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Paradiso Ubud celebrates indigenous voices through film

The Paradiso Ubud in Ubud, Bali, is holding Indigenous Movie Nights in the months leading up to the second edition of the Bali Indigenous Film Festival, which it is hosting on May 10-12, 2019. (Shutterstock/Enjoyphoto80)

The Paradiso Ubud movie theater in Bali saw a full house for its Papua-themed Indigenous Movie Night on Jan. 11. With 79 moviegoers in attendance, the evening’s events covered two short documentaries and a feature-length film, as well as three guest speakers, culture, dance and song.

The audience was offered genuine insight to the life and struggles of indigenous women in Papua through the  documentary feature film, Tanah Mama (Mama’s Soil). A discussion via Skype followed with the director, Astrida Elisabeth, through which viewers learned a little more about what goes into making a documentary film while  exploring its theme.

A film always means so much more when we viewers are able to meet the people behind the film.

Tanah Mama was not an easy film to make. Astrida followed one family’s story of an outstanding fine that required cash payments (not yams) across yam fields and into their home, and explored how Mama Halosina dealt with juggling family duties, village life and the layers of social complexity that we may have been otherwise unaware of.

Documentary films open our eyes to the reality of life.

Director and screenwriter Astrida is a freelance journalist and video editor for Citizen Journalism in Jayapura. She is part of Papuan Voices, is a filmmaking advocacy initiative that works with Papuan activists who want to tell their stories to the world.

The Papua-themed evening also explored indigenous literary talents. Aprila Wayer from Jayapura, West Papua, presented her latest novel Rootless Black Roses and two other titles, and discussed the situation that indigenous communities in Papua face today. A journalist, writer and activist, Aprila spoke compassionately about the anguish of her Papuan brothers and sisters.

The event also screened a short documentary from Mother Jungle, an indigenous women’s empowerment organization. It tells the story of how indigenous people can be resourceful when faced with a challenge. It also explores indigenous fashion, and we saw how tree bark, a natural forest product, is made into shoes, vests and other clothing items. The documentary also presented the wisdom of Dayak women in West Kalimantan. Sanne Van Oort, the founder of Mother Jungle, presented a talk on the film.

Everyone paid attention as Dessy Plorenthina, a Dayak woman, took to the stage and performed a slow and very beautiful traditional dance and sung in her native tongue. Dessy comes from the Dayak Simpang tribe, and undertook a 16-hour journey by motorcycle, plane and bus from her village – located four hours from the provincial capital of Pontianak – to get to Bali. She was invited to Bali as an educator on a 6-month sponsored internship with the Green School.

A spokesperson for the Sekolah Adat Indigenous Education Program that now operates 32 traditional schools across the country, Dessy talked about her efforts to preserve indigenous Indonesian cultures through connecting children with their elders that preserve their community’s wisdom, language and stories.

Read also: Balinale set to return with award-winning movies, guests

Paradiso Ubud is holding indigenous film screenings every month in the lead-up to the second Bali Indigenous Film Festival on May 10-12, which it is hosting except for opening night, which is to be hosted at Njana Tilem Museum in Mas, Ubud. The three-day festival will screen 32 indigenous films and present panel discussions, workshops and a Q&A involving around 15 Indonesian and international filmmakers.

Giving back to indigenous filmmakers is the drive and passion of photographer and author David Metcalf, who has been nicknamed the “accidental anthropologist”. Metcalf has dedicated 15 years of his life to Indonesian artistic photography and traveling to remote tribal lands from Aceh to Timor. Together with the Ranu Welum Foundation, the very first Bali Indigenous Film Festival was held in January 2018, which invited 12 directors and producers and saw the participation of more than 300 people. 

“I am very happy that these indigenous film nights are being so well supported by the Balinese community,” said Metcalf. 

“In the spirit of community support, each month 50 percent of the ticket sales goes into a fund to support indigenous filmmakers in this country. However, this month we have decided to give the money to support Mama Halosina, the subject of the Papuan film,” he said.

“This will help her buy a pig, and it’s a wonderful outcome from the night. We hope that people living in Bali will continue to support these special monthly indigenous film nights, as they are very educational and give the indigenous people a platform to express themselves.” 

Indigenous communities in Indonesia have indeed raised their voices through film at the Paradiso Ubud’s Movie Nights and the three-day Bali Indigenous Film Festival, sharing their knowledge as the keepers of ancestral wisdoms, including forest and natural resource management, and as true conservationists. The outcome has been to bring hope and balance to the world we live in now. (kes)


The deadline for film submissions to the Bali Indigenous Film Festival 2019 is March 1.

Contacts: Emmanula Shinta ( and David Metcalf (


Stephanie Brookes is a travel writer and blogger with tales from Indonesia and beyond. She is the author of Indonesia’s Hidden Heritage: Cultural Journeys of Discovery (download free sample) []. You can reach out to her on Facebook[] and Instagram [].




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