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Director: Garin Nugroho
Runtime: 118 minutes
Language: Bahasa Indonesia, Sumbanese with English subtitles
Rating: NC16 (Some Violence and Disturbing Scenes)
GOLD PRIZE (Young Cinema Competition)
Tokyo International Film Festival 1994
GOLDEN CHARYBDIS (Best Feature Film)
Taormina International Film Festival 1994
The film was the first to be shot on Sumba Island, one of the last bastions of pre-Hindu animism. Made with help from locals, this fairy tale follows Lewa, a boy who believes in an angel that looks after the earth. Having lost his mother early, Lewa writes to the angel for answers but is frustrated with the lack of reply. After a tourist gifts him with a Polaroid, Lewa looks for his mother through a new medium. However, his incessant photography brings disaster to the island. Adapting a story then banned under Suharto, the film shows traditional Indonesian society to be at odds with modernity; its mix of folk music and experimental electronica heightening the sense of cultural clash.
Asian Film Archive’s restoration of Garin Nugroho’s Surat Untuk Bidadari was made possible using two surviving 35mm release prints, one from the collection of Sinematek Indonesia, and the other from Japan Foundation that contained English and Japanese subtitles. After inspection and comparison, the print from the Japan Foundation was found to be a complete version of the film and was used as a secondary source to replace missing frames from the Indonesian print. The print from Sinematek Indonesia was also affected by dirt, shrinkage, and numerous thick scratches on the emulsion and base of the material.
The film was scanned and restored in 4K resolution by Éclair Cinema in 2018 and completed in 2019. The restoration work included scratch removal, stabilising, deflickering, and colour correction. Additional audio processing, including the removal of noise, clicks, and hums, was also carried out to ensure a better auditory experience.
For the full Reframe: INLAND, ISLAND programme, please visit the main programme page here.
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