Documentary Review: Jungle Fever (2022) by Mahardika Yudha, Robin Hartanto Honggare and Perdana Roswaldy

With archival footage becoming one particular of the key themes of this year’s DOK Leipzig Festival, lots of inventive approaches of repurposing older supplies have been explored in numerous sections and business events. Amongst them was Dutch-Indonesian “Jungle Fever”, which took component in the competitors for Finest International Documentary. Due to its revisionist premise, it stood out amongst lots of productions whose makers decided to delve into the archives in search for the great material. Not only have been the creators (a trio of Mahardika Yudha, Robin Hartanto Honggare and Perdana Roswaldy) applying discovered footage to inform a new story, but they also attempted to recontextualize and decolonize the original material. Though the beginning point of applying colonial footage to retell the story of life on plantations in Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) was a fascinating one particular, the finish solution is in the end lacking in a extra pointed, discursive element.

The film’s premise appears nicely intentioned, and fits into a extra basic trend of inventive and ironic usage of archive material in documentary cinema. The authors decided to use (a re-edited and reorganized for film’s purposes) memoir by Laszlo Szekely, entitled “Jungle Fever”, as a narrative backbone about which the old photographs and reels of documentation have been arranged. The made use of footage reconstructs and demonstrates how the pristine jungles of Sumatra have been transformed on an industrial scale into tobacco plantations. Apart from the toll taken by nature, “Jungle Fever” rapidly proves the colonizers also impacted the island’s peoples in manifold style.

This is demonstrated by means of silent reels which paint a disturbing image of the energy dynamics on the plantation, without the need of ever displaying any explicit types of violence directed towards the indigenous people today on screen. The colonizers get virtually demonic qualities when the directors determine to zoom in on them, reciprocating their personal gaze. However, these moments of true dread are uncommon, and the supplies made use of in the film do not generally come to life in a extra captivating style. An additional vital challenge right here is that with an awkward voice-more than study in a detached, non-emotional way, “Jungle Fever” sounds jarring.

Laszlo Szekely’s rearranged text initially serves as a mere guidebook about the plantations. Following the later developments, the film’s partnership to its narrated text becomes extra difficult, or even questioning. With his racist insights and observations, Szekely the topic-narrator, turns into an object – yet another relict of the previous who can’t be relied upon. Informed by colonialist ideology, each the text and the visual supplies inform one particular version of the story of the plantations. With the directors’ aim of reclaiming the archival supplies, one particular starts to wonder how precisely is the reclaiming procedure carried out in the film.

Making use of Szekely’s words and repurposing them is an fascinating intellectual endeavor, nonetheless the film in the end lacks some counterpointing sequences. Maybe a various viewpoint, like that of the native population functioning on plantations, could definitely illustrate how the narrator’s perception of life on plantation is mismatched with that of the worker. The directors chose to rely only on Szekely’s memoirs, hence not going down a extra confrontative path of acquiring a contrasting testimony. The eponymous Jungle Fever is a term describing the procedure of the colonizers losing their humanity while in the jungle. The evil deeds they commit come, as if, from their surroundings, and not from inside. Or at least, so Szekely would have us think.

If this is a film about the misperception of specific spaces, and about how energy structures permitted racism and colonialism to flourish without the need of getting confronted, it surely lacks a mirror image. Anything that could highlight Szekely’s inaccuracies and add depth to the reconstruction attempted by the directors. The archive footage made use of in the film feels largely illustrative. It does not inform a narrative of its personal (apart from the aforementioned scenes with the colonizers), and words hardly ever clash or contrast with the pictures. As if the supplies unearthed from the Dutch archives have been not treated with adequate scrutiny, and weren’t watched critically adequate, to be reinterpreted in a extra subversive way.



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