The Sorceress of DirahDongeng dari Dirah
INDONESIA / 1992 / Indonesian / Color / Video (Original: 35mm) / 39 min
Directors: Sardono W. Kusumo, Robert Chappel
Photography: Robert Chappel
Narrator: Edward Herbst
Music: Otto Sidharta
Screen Adaptation, Source: Sardono W. Kusumo
Producers: Robert Chappel, Widodo Ramelan
This ambitious film is an adaptation of a play by the same title, based on traditional Balinese dance and legend, which the filmmaker has staged many times over the years. Indigenous village culture is celebrated in the memorable opening sequence, where dancers and villagers intermingle and depict daily fieldwork and bathing through dance. This moral tale alternates between the villagers’ performance, with four chapters referencing village myths, and an inserted play; it entrusts the future to the tradition that sacred beings and the youth keep power in the village in balance, and comes to a close after foreshadowing an imminent attack on the village.
[Director’s Statement] My work is a search into the future through the past to recover the essential link between Man and Nature. I dance the man who has lost his cultural roots—or from whom they have been torn—wandering in our contemporary forest.
Most of the time, my inspiration is a particular set of circumstances affecting the human condition, with questions to address and problems to investigate. Technique is not the ultimate goal but a special language to communicate ideas. I started staging The Sorceress of Dirah in Teges in 1974, and this film, shot on location in and with the villagers of Teges, came out in 1992. It is the experience of trying to address these issues that gives meaning to my life.
Sardono W. Kusumo
Born in 1945 in Surakarta, Java. A stage director, dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker. Since the 1970s, his work has emerged from the pluralistic multicultural society that is modern Indonesia, informed by his classical Javanese dance training and his activism. His environmentally based dance pieces Meta Ekologi (1979), Plastic Jungle (1983), and Lamenting Forest (1987), were the direct result of a relationship he developed with the Dayak tribesmen of East Kalimantan. He has also created solo pieces with composers Takahashi Yuji, Sawai Kazue, and Kosugi Takehisa. Since his first film, The Sorceress of Dirah, he’s been working to complete the film Raden Saleh, about the legendary 19th century Javanese artist.