The film, aka “Mbah Jhiwo,” is a Spanish-produced docu-drama about life in the Sulphur mines of Java, Indonesia. It was directed by Alvarro Guerra and will next play at the DocumentaMadrid festival.
Pitched as ethno-fiction, the film follows a man who hand carries huge rocks of Sulphur from the mine, sees his routine radically altered the moment his wife goes away. Trapped like Sisyphus into an eternal return, the man will face similar events that mutate in appearance as his beliefs move from animism, to Islam and capitalism. An ethno-fiction that explores otherness and questions the myth of progress in the neocolonial reality of the South Seas.
“What first piqued our interest in this film was the style and story, but what confirmed our passion for the film was the eager collaboration the filmmakers had with the man who is the film’s subject,” said Pearl Chan, head of International distribution at Hong Kong-based Good Move.
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“Since the success of ‘Me and the Cult Leader,’ which was played at the CPH DOX festival, we’ve become interested in the conversations of ethics, neo-colonialism and POV in documentaries. With ‘Ancient Soul’ we found a filmmaking team equally committed to these questions and engaged with the community they were filming what is essentially an ethnography of beliefs.
Good Move is currently riding high on the success of another unusual and uncomfortable documentary “Cult Leader.” In it a filmmaker becomes closely involved with a member of Aleph (formerly Aum Shinriko) the doomsday cult that released poison gas into the Tokyo subway in 1995, killing that killed 13 and injured over 6,000 people. A Variety review recently described the film as a slow burn form of “deprogramming.”