Subtitled 'a kinematographic picture of the Dutch East Indies 1912-c1933', this strange, luminous document conjoins and contrasts colonial propaganda footage with timeless indigenous creationist mythology. West of Sumatra, the islanders of Nias tell of Earth's creator Mother Dao, the ever-rejuvenating, the turtlelike, whose immaculate conception first begat man and woman. An atoll erupts, a chant begins, and we see local people and European settlers, segregated and increasingly intertwined as the progressive overhaul of the island's economic industry and cultural organisation takes shape. Natural resources, production, transportation, government, religion, education and health care are all developed in the imperialists' image. The director combed through 300,000 metres of documentary material in Dutch archives to compile these silent images: the spartan soundtrack employs only occasional native songs and poems alongside subdued ambient noises. The director's revisionist perspective of course complicates matters; still, the film is most impressive as a simple anthropological documentary, containing a few searingly memorable visions, such as a crocodile slaughter as calmly brutal as the rabbit hunt in La Règle du Jeu.
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