Artist FX Harsono Exposes the '48 Mass Killings of the Indo-Chinese Community in Debut Film

FX Harsono at the Docs by the Sea pitching forum in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Wednesday (30/8). (JG Photo/Lisa Siregar)

By : Lisa Siregar | on 12:54 PM September 07, 2017
Category : Life & Style, Movies

Jakarta. Acclaimed artist FX Harsono is working on his debut film "The Last Survivor," a feature-length documentary about a military aggression by the Dutch in 1948 that effectively killed off the Chinese community in Wonosobo, East Java, and its surroundings.

Harsono is one of 10 Indonesian film directors who presented his work at the Docs by the Sea pitching forum in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Aug. 29-30. The forum, organized by Bekraf and In-Docs, selected 30 documentary film projects to screen their trailers and pitch for additional funding in front of a panel of 35 judges from around the world.

"The Last Survivor" follows the family of Tjoa Er Ries, who survived the 1948 conflict along with her three children. The documentary provides testimonials from Tjoa, who survived the killings and robbery after her family's belongings were destroyed and her house set on fire. Harsono also interviews other survivors, Noto Utomo from Wonosobo, Birawa Nata Praja from Nganjuk and Slamet Sung Kie from Blitar, for the documentary. 

Tjoa continues to live by selling traditional cakes. She now lives with her son and daughter in-law, Ong Hok Kioe or Hendri Sukendro, and Oey Djie Nio, or Sujiarti. 

Harsono said he intends to expose this story because not many people know about it. Nevertheless, "The Last Survivor" is not his first attempt in doing so.

In 2013, he created "Rewriting on the Tomb," a series of digital prints on textile that depict inscriptions from the mass gravesite markers of the 1948 killings. Harsono found that between 1951-1953, families of victims in East Java sought dead bodies to bury them properly. There is also a Ceng Beng (tomb sweeping) ceremony that takes place every April 5th to commemorate the victims.

In the same year, he also made a short video, titled "Pilgrimage to History," that follows the making of "Rewriting" prints that can also be seen as his own homage to that dark chapter in Indonesian history. 

In 2016, Harsono made "The Light of Spirits," a combination of plastic electric candles, LED bulbs, sand, cement and wood to replicate a single mass gravesite marker.

"For the past ten years, I have made artwork to expose this issue, but art can only present a small fragment of the truth," Harsono said. "I have been enjoying making this film because I get to give people the bigger picture."

According to Harsono, there is a notion of positivity because these survivors manage to go on with their lives. The most important thing is that there is hope that the tragedy will not happen again in the future.

Harsono aims to complete his 70-minute film by August 2018. "The Last Survivor" is produced by Amerta Kusuma from KawanKawan Films.

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