Paradiso, in Ubud, Bali hosts Indigenous Movie Nights every month in a lead up to the second annual Indigenous Film Festival – Bali, May 10-12, 2019.

Paradiso movie theatre in Ubud was packed out with a full house for its Papua-themed Indigenous Movie Night on Jan 11, 2019. With 79 moviegoers in attendance, the evening’s events covered two short documentaries and a feature-length film, as well as three guest speakers, culture, dance and song.

The audience was offered a genuine insight to the life and struggles of indigenous women in Papua through the documentary feature film, Tanah Mama (Mama’s Soil). A discussion via Skype followed with the director, Astrida Elisabeth, through which viewers learned a little more about what goes into making a documentary film while exploring its theme.

A film always means so much more when we, the viewers, are able to meet the people behind the film.

Tanah Mama was not an easy film to make. Astrida followed one family’s story of an outstanding fine that required a cash payment (not yams). Astrida and crew followed with a camera across Papuan yam fields and into the home of Mama Halosina and explored how she dealt with the on-going stress of the debt, juggling family duties, daily village life and the layers of social complexity that we may have been otherwise unaware of.

Documentary films open our eyes to the reality of life.

Director and screenwriter Astrida is a freelance journalist and video editor for Citizen Journalism in Jayapura. She is part of Papuan Voices, is a filmmaking advocacy initiative that works with Papuan activists who want to tell their stories to the world.

The Papua-themed evening also explored indigenous literary talents. Aprila Wayer from Jayapura, West Papua, presented her latest novel Rootless Black Roses and two other titles, and discussed the situation that indigenous communities in Papua face today. A journalist, writer, and activist, Aprila spoke compassionately about the anguish of her Papuan brothers and sisters.

The event also screened a short documentary from Mother Jungle, an indigenous women’s empowerment organization. It told the story of how indigenous people can be resourceful when faced with a challenge. It also explored indigenous fashion, and we saw how tree bark, a natural forest product, can be made into shoes, vests and other clothing items. The documentary also presented the wisdom of Dayak women in West Kalimantan. Sanne Van Oort, the founder of Mother Jungle, presented the film.

When a Dayak takes to the stage, everyone pays attention. Dessy Plorenthina, a young Dayak girl, graced the stage and performed a slow and very beautiful traditional dance and sung in her native tongue. Dessy comes from the Dayak Simpang tribe and undertook a 16-hour journey by motorcycle, plane, and bus from her village – located four hours from the provincial capital of Pontianak – to get to Bali. Dessy is very lucky, as she was chosen to join a 6-month internship to learn environment education by  Green School.

Dessy is a spokesperson for the Sekolah Adat Indigenous Education Program that now operates 32 traditional schools across the country. She talked about her efforts to preserve indigenous Indonesian cultures by connecting young children with the elders, focusing on cultural preservation through community wisdom, language and stories.

Paradiso Ubud is proud to present the line up of 32 indigenous films screening at the Indigenous Film Festival, Bali in May. The opening night, Friday 10 May, will be held at Njana Tilem Museum in Mas, Ubud. The three-day festival will also present panel discussions, workshops and a series of director-led Q&A involving  15 Indonesian and international filmmakers.

Giving back to indigenous filmmakers is the drive and passion of photographer and author David Metcalf, who has been nicknamed the “accidental anthropologist”. Metcalf has dedicated 15 years of his life to Indonesian artistic photography and traveling to remote tribal lands from Aceh to Timor. Together with the Ranu Welum Foundation, the very first Bali Indigenous Film Festival was held in January 2018, which invited 12 directors and producers and saw the participation of more than 300 people.

“I am very happy that these indigenous film nights are being so well supported by the Balinese community,” said Metcalf.

“In the spirit of community support, each month 50 % of the ticket sales goes into the Ranu Welum fund to support indigenous filmmakers in this country. However, this month we have decided to give the money to support Mama Halosina, the subject of the Papuan film,” he said.

“This will help her buy a pig, and it’s a wonderful outcome from the night. We hope that people living in Bali will continue to support these special monthly indigenous film nights, as they are very educational and give the indigenous people a platform to express themselves.”

Indigenous communities in Indonesia have indeed raised their voices through film at the Paradiso Ubud Indigenous Movie Nights. The 3-day, May 10-12, 2019  Bali Indigenous Film Festival, is a platform for sharing traditional knowledge, ancestral wisdom, offering an exploration of forest and natural resource management, and as true conservationists, the indigenous voice is raised by devoting a film festival to the original wisdom keepers of our planet. The outcome is simple: bring hope and balance to the world we live in now.

Story Published: The Jakarta Post, January 15, 2019



The deadline for film submissions to the Bali Indigenous Film Festival 2019 is March 01, 2019.

Contacts: Emmanula Shinta ( and David Metcalf (


Stephanie Brookes is a travel writer and blogger with tales from Indonesia and beyond. She is the author of Indonesia’s Hidden Heritage: Cultural Journeys of Discovery (download free sample) []. You can reach out to her on Facebook[] and Instagram [].

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