Monday, October 03, 2022

Dutch Colonial Films 1: The Modern Colony (GCM 2022)

J. C. Lamster: Remonte-Depot en stoeteru te Padalarang / [Remount Station and Stud Farm at Padalarang] (NL 1912–1913/[1923]). From: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2022: Film coloniali olandesi / Dutch Colonial Films, Prog. 1: Una colonia moderna / The Modern Colony
A cura di: Nico de Klerk.
Grand piano: José Maria Serralde Ruiz
E-subtitles in English and Italian.
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 3 Oct 2022

AANKOMST VAN EEN MAILSTOOMER TE TANDJONG-PRIOK [Arrivo di un battello postale a Tanjung Priok / Arrival of a Packet Boat at Tanjung Priok] (NL, 1912–1913/1923)
regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 96 m., 4′ (18 fps), b&w + imbibito/tinted; did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Packet boats provided inter-insular services for passengers and cargo in the Indonesian archipelago. Since the mid-19th century this network had been an important part of an emerging communication infrastructure that enabled and supported the economic expansion and administrative unification of the colony. The intensification of inter-insular as well as intercontinental shipping necessitated the building of a new, shore-based seaport at Batavia (today’s Jakarta). The old one, small and shallow, had forced the new, bigger steamships to remain in the roadstead while their cargo and passengers were taken ashore by smaller vessels. Opened in 1883 in Tanjung Priok, northeast of Batavia, the new port accommodated the increased volume of traffic of larger-sized ships. Trains took new arrivals quickly to the capital." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: My thoughts fly to the early novels of Joseph Conrad, such as Almayer's Folly, and Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Empire: 1875–1914. We are in the last years of the Belle Époque, on the brink of the First World War. Indigenous workers unload the heavy luggage of Dutch imperialists. In long shots and long takes we get a feeling in real time of how it was, today seeing it educated by new colonial history. Heartbreaking beauty and grandeur on the ship called Rembrandt.

REIS LANGS DE STAATS-SPOORWEGEN OP JAVA. LIJN WELTEVREDEN‒MR. CORNELIS [In viaggio sulle ferrovie nazionali di Giava. La linea Weltevreden-Meester Cornelis / Traveling Along the National Railways in Java. The Weltevreden to Meester Cornelis Line] (NL, [1919–1923])
regia/dir: ?. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 124 m., 6′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Part of a series of films on the colonial railway infrastructure, this episode shows the route between the uptown district of Weltevreden, on the southeastern edge of Batavia (today’s Jakarta), and the town of Meester Cornelis (today’s Jatinegara). Passing Manggarai with its railway workshops and employee housing one notices the modern Dutch architecture that dotted the colony’s urban areas in the late colonial era. While at the turn of the 20th century 80% of the colony’s Dutch population was born in the Indies, the new architecture signaled the increasing influx of so-called totoks, Netherlands-born immigrants who planned to settle only temporarily in the colony, and were less inclined to adopt local habits of clothing and food – and less able to afford villas." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: A phantom ride gives us a vivid, epic panorama of life in colonial Batavia / Jakarta.

REIZIGERS VERKEER [Traffico turistico / Tourist Traffic] (NL, 1912–1913/1923)
regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 55 m., 2′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Two brief impressions of tourism, featuring, first, the neo-gothic Hotel Homann, in Bandung. Mrs. Homann’s famous rijsttafel [literally, “rice table”] attracted many Dutch planters in the region for this elaborate Indo-European meal. Car ownership, more plentiful than in the Netherlands at the time, enabled these day-trips. Next, the first-class Grand Hotel Java. Located in the posh Weltevreden district of Batavia, it provided European standards of luxury, comfort, and food for well-heeled local and international – mostly American – tourists, at a minimum of 10 guilders per night." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: Lavish circumstances in Hotel Homann in Bandung and Grand Hotel Java in Batavia.

JAARBEURS EN PASAR-MALAM TE MEDAN, OOSTKUST VAN SUMATRA [Fiera campionaria e mercato serale a Medan, sulla costa orientale di Sumatra / Trade Fair and Evening Market, Medan, East Coast of Sumatra] (NL 1923) regia/dir: J. John. prod: Gewestelijk Jubileum Comité [Regional Jubilee Committee]. copia/copy: 35 mm, 288 m., 14′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "In the 1860s, the gradual abolishment of the so-called “Cultivation System” (a cooperation between the colonial administration and the Javanese aristocracy that forced peasants to set aside land and time to grow export crops) heralded a new economic era of private enterprise. It flourished particularly in the newly exploited regions outside Java. Most lucrative was Sumatra’s east coast: the tobacco and rubber plantations in the Deli sultanate and the palm oil industry and oil wells in the Langkat sultanate, as well in Palembang in the south, slowly shifted the economic center of gravity away from Java. The trade fair shown in the film, in the boomtown of Medan, was organized on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Queen Wilhelmina’s investiture, but appears above all to celebrate Dutch entrepreneurial success (albeit boosted by the American automobile and tire industries)." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: A huge overview of industry and enterprise at the great trade fair and evening market in Medan, including brands still familiar today such as Van Houten, Buick, Firestone and Deutz. Entertainment includes indigenous acrobatics, music bands and a wrestling show. Recognizable faces are rare in this show, but here are a few glimpses. An aubade is joined by 2000 schoolchildren. A sabha, a Hindu art society, appears, as well as a costumed sport match, a display bicycle ride by armed police, and gymnastic by their wives, all indigenous.

REMONTE-DEPOT EN STOETERU TE PADALARANG [Stazione di monta e scuderia a Padalarang / Remount Station and Stud Farm at Padalarang] (NL, 1912–1913/[1923]) regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 173? m., 8′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Founded in 1888, this remount station’s purpose was to breed horses better prepared for military service than local breeds, which had often been neglected or subjected to heavy duty by the time they were purchased. Coupled with an increased demand and the introduction of heavier artillery, the supply of replacement horses was becoming urgent. The military therefore decided to buy sturdier breeds at a younger age. Brought to this new facility, they were properly fed and gradually disciplined. Although at first sight an old-fashioned means of transport, horses remained of vital importance for the administrative unification of the Indonesian archipelago, particularly in areas where a modern infrastructure of railways and paved roads was still in its infancy, the landscape too formidable, or resistance, particularly on Sumatra, not subdued." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: A documentary of a horse remount service, covering many stages, including trot, gallop, dressage mounted, dressage riding, sandalwood mares with foals, loose stallions, march in the meadow and crossbred geldings.

HET DOKKEN VAN EEN SCHIP IN DE HAVEN VAN TANDJONG-PRIOK [L’attracco di una nave nel porto di Tanjung Priok / Docking a Ship in the Harbour of Tanjung Priok] (NL, 1912–1913/1923)
regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 128 m., 6′ (18 fps), b&w, imbibito/tinted; did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "With the colony’s weather and water conditions fouling ships’ hulls quickly, a floating dry-dock had been put in operation in 1856 in the roadstead of Batavia (now Jakarta). With the completion of the shore-based port of Tanjung Priok in 1883, docking facilities were brought within its perimeters. In rough stop-motion style the film shows the arrival of a ship in the floating dock. As can be seen in many other films of services, industries, or agricultures in the colony (the public sector, except for ceremonial occasions, largely steered clear of being filmed), private enterprise’s division of labour was quite strictly organized along ethnic lines." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: An epic account of a huge ship maintained and cleansed on a dock.

TOCHT PER AUTO DOOR WELTEVREDEN [Giro in auto per le strade di Weltevreden / Car Ride through Weltevreden] (NL, 1912–1913/[1923]) regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 313 m., 15′ (18 fps), [b&w], imbibito/tinted; did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "The Colonial Institute’s lecture text for this “phantom ride” through Weltevreden, the southern suburb of Batavia (today’s Jakarta), is uncharacteristically outspoken. Its European residential area, once called “The Queen of the East”, is said to be “decaying”, as its panoramic design with villas and parks is expected to be sacrificed to the construction of row houses, due to a lack of real estate. Sobering, to say the least, is the comment on its Chinese quarter, where one finds “dirty dwellings along narrow alleys and canals”. In fact, the shot of an opium den, acquired from Pathé Frères in 1918, signals that the films, changes notwithstanding, gradually lost their topicality. The end of World War I finally offered opportunities for other companies to make more up-to-date films." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: An epic travelogue largely conducted as a phantom ride through Batavia/Jakarta, covering many sights, including opium dens, the bustle of town traffic, Club Harmony, the "French Quarter", Tanah Abang, King's Square, a society of art and sciences displaying Hindu deities, the Golden Room, and crown jewels of collapsed principalities. An indigenous cleaning man directs a serious look at us in one of the rare eye contact shots in the programme. There is also a precious collection of weapons. Les statues meurent aussi. Follows a phantom ride from a horse-driven carriage. Waterloo Square, where a football match is mounted. There is a slow long panoramic shot of the audience, but we cannot identify faces. Until we do, in the most memorable moment of the program, serious, unsmiling faces of the indigenous people. They are silently watching us. Cornelis de Houtman is evoked. The film ends with a wide general view of the Ciliwung / Liwung River.

AA: A magnificent time travel experience in Dutch Colonial Indonesia. We need to read between the lines and images to realize what is left unsaid.

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