Timely in terms of current Indonesian politics but in other respects long overdue, Nugroho’s extraordinary film looks back to 1965, when the assassination of seven army officers was unconvincingly pinned on communists—giving the dictator Suharto all the excuse he needed for decades of authoritarian rule and arbitrary arrests. There were mass arrests and executions in Aceh, then as now considered Indonesia’s most fractious province. One lucky survivor was the poet Ibrahim Kadir. Nugroho invites Kadir (now 56) to perform some of the didong narrative poems he has written in the intervening years, amid a recreation of events in the Takengon Prison. The film focuses on cells 7 (for men) and 8 (for women); the inmates keep their spirits up with songs, stories of local courtships and tales of government stupidity. More elegiac than angry, the film is presented—very poetically—as a slow transition from monochrome to delicate colour.
Subtitles:English hard subs