Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly -- Film Review

BOTTOM LINE: A haunting but cryptic depiction of the Chinese-Indonesian experience.

Pusan International Film Festival
New Currents

Edwin is a household name in the Indonesian experimental and short film circuit. His works, showcased in Cannes and other top festivals, are at times idiosyncratic to the point of visionary and at other times just darn weird. His debut feature, "Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly," which is a personal interpretation of the experience of being Indonesian Chinese, is no less out-of-this-world.

It secured a run in a few smaller cinemas in Jakarta last month, but overseas distributors probably won't take a risk on it. Its platform belongs to festival or museum exhibitions.

What do Linda who gobbles firecrackers like hotdogs, Opa the elderly pool player who changed his name three times, Verawati the retired national badminton player who makes dumplings all day, Halim the polygamous dentist who wants to convert to Islam and the blind pig tied to a pole have in common? They come from the same family, and symbolize facets of an ethnic minority that doesn't want to be Chinese but can't become fully integrated as Indonesians either.

Edwin feels that it is a mind-set so abstract and internalized it can't be conveyed in a conventional story-driven narrative. Using a fragmented structure with tableaux-like scenes, he describes a collective subconscious of anxiety, denial and wishful thinking. However, he provides no cultural crutches to help a foreign audience pick up the oblique references.

It requires historical background or a press kit to know that the brief TV footage of the May 1998 riots resulted in the deaths of many Chinese, and that badminton is an Indonesian sport in which the best players are Chinese. Even more oblique is a threesome performed on the dental chair between Halim and two gay man with army uniform fetishes -- a symbol of the Chinese sucking up to the military and politicians for self-preservation, Edwin said in an interview.

Edwin's play with associated images dazzles and confound, like the refrain of Stevie Wonder's song, which invites different interpretations related to blindness and color. Yet for all the complex symbolism and visual brilliance, "Blind Pig" ultimately is an extended short.

Cast: Ladya Cheryl, Pong Harjatmo, Carlo Genta, Elizabeth Maria, Joko Anwar.
Director-screenwriter: Edwin.
Producers: Meiske Taurisia, Edwin, Sidi Saleh.
Director of photography: Sidi Saleh.
Art director: Iqbal Raya, Eros Eflin.
Music: Windra Benyamin.
Costume designer: Meiske Taurista.
Editor: Herman Pancar.
No rating, 77 minutes.
production: Neon Productions & Babibutafilm in association with Miles Films, Elang Perkasa Film, Lynx Films.