Jay Subyakto has created a film on the history of Banda. The documentary tells nothing new, but it gives an artistic depiction of the historical moments that occurred in the archipelago.
There was once a beautiful princess, Cilu Bintang, who was about to be proposed to by a prince. The princess's father, the King, set out certain terms for the prince before he can marry her, which is to bring him 99 pieces of gold as an offering. Dismayed by the King's terms, the prince wanders into the jungle, and discovers a golden fruit growing on a tree. The prince harvests the fruit99 of themand presents them to the King. Feeling duped, the King is furious and orders for the prince to be executed. As for the fruit, the King dumps them in Banda. Folklore has it the fruit grew into nutmeg trees, which later came to fetch prices far higher than gold, were contested by many countries, and was the reason for much gory bloodshed.
Jay Subyakto opens his movie with a narrative on how important nutmeg was for the history of the Banda Archipelago, and how it came to affect world trade. The documentary, the director’s first, was produced on a grand scale and showed thorough planning. The story covers a time span of over 400 years. In the film, Jay delivers detailed historical accounts of the Banda Archipelago, from the discovery of nutmeg, followed by the arrival of foreign traders to its shores, the subsequent spice wars, how the islands were chosen as the exile location for Indonesia’s founding fathers, and how the region eventually lost its charm.
Jay Subiakto is better known for his work as an artistic stylist. As a production, the film can be considered an artistic milestone in documentary film-making, presenting mostly crude footage shot in monochromatic effects and complemented with just enough computerized animation. In terms of presentation, Jay choose to comvey the film as a collage of moving pictures capturing vast and beautiful landscapes, down to the accurately detailed aspects of historical events. "I asked Sheila Timothy [the producer] for permission to make a documentary using a novel format," Jay said.
The original idea for the film came from Sheila. She was eager to reveal how the Spice Route had a much bigger significance and impact for world trade compared to the Silk Road. "Because this piece of history is so important, we decided we needed to make a documentary film that is not fragmented," Sheila explained. In the making, Sheila roped in the spice route consortium currently promoting all manner of educational programs on the history of the spice route.
The plot crafted by scriptwriter Irfan Ramli is chronologically presented. The script traces back Banda’s history from the early European merchant voyages exploring Africa and Sri Lanka. The ships finally stumble upon Nusantara-the large group of islands that later made up Indonesia. These events are explained using infographics and dynamic animations. Continuation scenes of three young local boys offer transitionary cuts. They are seen running energetically under the nutmeg trees and playing on the beach and the ruins of the fort, in between detailed descriptions of historic events.
Ever since Chinese merchants showed how nutmeg can be used as preservative and sedative, merchants from all over the world began their pursuit of the spice. Large numbers of expeditions departed from Europe, and Banda gradually became the locus of power struggles between major European countries seeking control of the region.
The rest of the story-including the massacre by J. P. Coen, the conflict between the Dutch and the British that resulted in the Breda Treaty, the collapse of the price of nutmeg-are well-recorded in history books.
In fact the events revisited by the film are well-known, specifically the exile of Mohammad Hatta, Sutan Sjahrir, Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo and Iwa Koesoemasoemantri to Banda. Nevertheless, the film manages to give us history without tears in a stunning display of visuals and captivating narrative.
Moyang Kasih Dewimerdeka
Banda the Dark Forgotten Trail
Director: Jay Subyakto
Scenario: Irfan Ramli
Production: Lifelike Pictures
Narrator: Reza Rahadian