Cast: Yoshi Sudarso, Ario Bayu, Pevita Pearce, Tio Pakusadewo
Singapore foreign language film submission, 2019 Academy Awards
Official Selection, 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival
Real cowboys ride horses. Or do they? Indonesia’s answer to the spaghetti western rides in on the back of a water buffalo or two with no holds barred, in an action-packed, blood-soaked tale of revenge.
With the aid of their uncle Arana (Tio Pakusadewo), brothers Jamar (Ario Bayu) and Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso) return to Java from the American West to exact revenge upon the Dutch colonial administrator, Van Trach (Reinout Bussemaker), who murdered their sultan father – rendering them orphans from infancy. Upon arrival, the brothers are shocked to witness the ceaseless brutalities and sexual violence against women committed against the Indonesian people at the hands of the Dutch colonizers and their Indonesian sympathizers. What starts as a mission of personal revenge and legacy reclamation becomes part of a greater struggle against the violence of colonial rule.
Mike Wiluan’s directorial debut integrates all of the features of a classic western, unsavory and otherwise – quickdraws, hangings, damsels in distress, bottle smashing, barefist boxing, grease and grime – against the backdrop of Asian Americans (in the fullest sense of the word) returning to a “homeland” in which they are mostly out of place. The film raises questions of identity, homecoming, and intergenerational colonial traumas that may take place in the character’s world of 19th century Java and the American wild west, but are alive and well in the 21st.
– Jumanah Albahri