35mm. L.: 128 M. D.: 5’ A 24 F/S.
A significant number of the films made in the Dutch East Indies contain images traditionally associated with the modernized West: heavy traffic, the infrastructure of rail and highways, factories etc. These films were usually commissioned by government or industry, and their style was no different from similar films made in Holland. Take for example Moeriah Tras. Extracted from volcanic rock, Tras was used as either an artificial fertilizer or a building material in the construction of the new districts and buildings in Semarang or Bandung, for example. As a consequence of a policy of administrative decentralization that gave more authority to city councils, many cities underwent a metamorphosis, with the development of very modern architecture. The film Beautiful Bandung shows a number of these modern quarters and buildings, such as the new market hall, the observatory, the Homann hotel and the Concordia Association building. Film, of course, played a part in the construction of the new image of the Dutch East Indies. The newsreel of the Uiver’s stopover at the airport of Batavia (now Jakarta), in October 1934, on its return from the legendary London-Melbourne air race, is particularly modern. It is one of the earliest professional films with synchronous sound made in the Dutch East Indies (although the sound of the aircraft engines had to be recreated in the studio). It is very likely that this film was shown in the Dutch East Indies, and in this sense it is an exception, as most films made in the colony were meant for use in Holland as information, education or propaganda. On the other hand, the films shown in cinemas in the colony were generally the same as those shown in Holland. From the 1910s onwards spectators could enjoy Pathé’s coloured films featuring Zigomar or the destruction of Pompeii. The news film of Chaplin’s visit and the marquees announcing American and German feature films in the film made in Surabaya are clear signs of the westernization of entertainment. The cinema, moreover, was a favourite pastime of people from all walks of life. Given that Europeans were only a small fraction of the total population in the Dutch East Indies, cinema theatres could never have survived a policy of apartheid.
Nico de Klerk