The Brag

[Sydney Film Festival 2010] Film Review: Indonesia Calling

In Arts, Film Reviews, Sydney Film Festival 2010 on June 4, 2010 at 9:48 pm


Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia (AUSTRALIA)

This is a documentary about a documentary. One of its many subjects is filmmaker Joris Ivens’ 1946 Indonesia Calling, a film about the Aussie trade union blockade of Dutch shipping, an act of support for the recently declared republic of Indonesia (up until then, the country had been a Dutch colony).

That film’s touchy political bent was not taken to kindly by the Dutch, who were still holding on to their imperialist past and were bitter about Ivens – also Dutch – who had resigned in protest as the Netherlands East Indies Film Commissioner. His leave in Australia during the time he made Calling, suggests director John Hughes, was also instrumental in creating Australia’s lively independent film culture.

At least, that’s the Cliffs Notes version, necessary if one is to take anything concrete away from this muddled, overly dry experience. The source material could be fascinating in less forlorn hands, but Hughes seems more interested in editorial tricks than telling a coherent story.

We get little sense of Ivans’ the filmmaker or Ivans’ the man, and the scattershot interviews and droning narration numbs. Unless you have personal ties to the story – which one feels the partisan audience at this opening screening did – you’re be better served diving into Ivens’ 50-odd filmography of political and social documentaries.

The film was preceded by a much more impressive short by Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann, The Lost Thing, an odd little CG-animated fairy tale narrated by Tim Minchin. [JB]

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