January 30th, 2013

South East Asia Council’s 2013 Film Series: Bulan Tertusuk Ilalang

Christopher A. Miller
Curator of Collections
School of Dance
6 pm
Neeb Hall 105

Staged on the margins of the royal Surakarta court, Bulan Tertusuk Ilalang is award-winning Indonesian director Garin Nugroho’s exploration of the tension between traditional central Javanese culture and the growing influences of the contemporary world. Anchored in the beautifully rendered traditional performing arts of daily court life, the film sets its focus on Ki Waluyo, an aging court musician whose expertise perfectly reflects both the sublime and the unforgivingly rigid character of Javanese courtly arts. The film explores his troubled relationship with two apprentices, Bulan and Ilalang, who form an emotional triangle that proves quietly devastating. Bulan, who has traveled the world as a university student, is in search of tranquility to balance her own internal chaos. Ilalang, whose childhood was marked by abuse, seeks to reconcile his contemporary musical compositions with Waluyo’s strict traditionalist instruction. In the end, the film gorgeously, and at times painfully, captures what Nugroho has described as a narrative arch “encompassing at the same time refinement and cruelty, softness and tyranny, and a beauty based on feudalism.”