Tjoet Nja’ Dhien

International Premiere | Out Of Competition | PART 2 - A/B side VIBES. Greatest Hits from ‘80s & ‘90s


Guest Star: Christine HAKIM, actress


Tjoet Nja’ Dhien is a film that holds almost mythical status in Indonesia. The only film directed by Eros (or Erros) Djarot, the film chronicles the resistance of the peoples of Aceh (North Sumatra) against the Dutch colonisers, under the leadership of the heroic and indomitable woman Tjoet Nja’ Dhien (or Cuk Nyak Dhien, 1848-1908), played by Christine Hakim, in a role that consolidated her status as an undisputed star of the national film industry. Djarot had previously made a name for himself as a composer.

He had gained considerable success in 1976 with the soundtrack of Badai Pasti Berlalu.

Directed by Teguh Karya and starring Christine Hakim and Djarot’s older brother Slamet Rahardjo, the film was a huge success. And when he embarked on a project as director, Djarot decided to reunite Hakim and Rahardjo, the couple from that film, to play Tjoet Nja’ Dhien and her consort Teuku Umar. Production started in 1986 and went on for two years, with the film arriving in Indonesian cinemas at the end of 1988. Filmed in the forests of Aceh, Tjoet Nja’ Dhien was well received upon its release, winning eight Citra Awards at that year’s Festival Film Indonesia, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Female Performance for Christine Akim.

The storyline follows the struggle of the people of the Sultanate of Aceh against the advancing Dutch army. The conflict began on 26 March 1873 with the burning of the Kutaraja mosque by General van Swieten’s troops and lasted until the beginning of the 20th century, becoming the longest war in Dutch colonial history. In Djarot’s film, Tjoet Nja’ Dhien (Christine Hakim) plays a central role in the anti-colonial resistance from the very beginning. Remembering how the Dutch had razed her home village of Lampadang to the ground, Tjoet Nja’ Dhien urges on her comrade Teuku Umar (Slamet Rahardjo) to lead the guerrilla war. When Teuku Umar falls in battle, Tjoet Nja’ Dhien takes the reins of his troops, continuing the resistance. Despite her health becoming increasingly precarious, Tjoet Nja’ Dhien does not give up, and it will only be because of a betrayal – motivated by the “good intentions” of reaching an armistice and seeing her cured – that the Dutch manage to capture her. In addition to the considerable production values, substantial and greatly ambitious for an Indonesian production of the time, the involvement of the local populations as extras, Tjoet Nja’ Dhien stands out for its choice to cast a female protagonist, one who was proclaimed a national hero by President Sukarno in 1964, as the emblem of the anti-colonial struggle. The intense performance of Christine Hakim, who at the time of the filming was about 20 years younger than Tjoet Nja’ Dhien at the beginning of the narrative, made the character iconic and ensured her undying popularity amongst Indonesian audiences. Because in his screenplay, Djarot skilfully depicted colonial resistance through the identity axes of Islamic faith (with the Dutch constantly portrayed as “infidels”) and the bond with the land (as opposed to the Westerners’ thirst for money); an ideological connotation that made the film a timeless classic for later Indonesian generations as well.

After its release in Indonesia, with a running time of approximately 150’, the film was shortened to 108’ for the international market and was invited to the Semaine de la Critique of the 1989 Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Indonesian feature film to be presented at Cannes. And it is this version that has been restored with the contribution of the Eye Film Museum. Ironically, this first major international recognition for Indonesian cinema marked the twilight of the local industry’s most prolific season, which in the 1990s experienced a crisis that bordered on total disappearance, with only a handful of films produced each year.

Paolo Bertolin
Film director: Eros DJAROT
Year: 1988
Running time: 110'
Country: Indonesia
29/04 - 6:20 PM
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
29-04-2024 18:20 29-04-2024 20:10Europe/Rome Tjoet Nja’ Dhien Far East Film Festival Visionario, Via Asquini 33CEC Udine