ART + CULTURE

'VENGEANCE IS MINE, ALL OTHERS PAY CASH': A NICHE TAKE ON MACHISMO

‘Toxic masculinity’ in 114 minutes.

12.12.2021
BY WILHEMINA BOWEN
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Set in 1989, "Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash" ("Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas") features all the retro and all the "what-was-that" moments. 

Based on a novel of the same title by the Booker Prize-nominated Eka Kurniawan, who was also in charge of screenwriting duties, the movie won the 74th Locarno Film Festival's top Golden Leopard award. Edwin, its director, and his team are the first Indonesians to ever win the accolade.

However, the award was not the first on Edwin's personal shelves of international recognition. Edwin was the first Indonesian filmmaker to be nominated for Berlin International Film Festival's prestigious Golden Bear trophy back in 2012 with his early feature "Postcards from the Zoo".

The story revolves around a short-tempered local troublemaker with a murky past named Ajo Kawir. Ajo is constantly restless and angry due to the fact he has erectile dysfunction, leading him to resort to violence to vent. That is until he meets Iteung, a lady fighter who beats him black and blue, turning his world around as the meet-cute leads to romance.

Cineuropa summarizes the storyline as: "In a society ruled by machismo, a hibernating "bird" becomes a serious matter. In a life of brutality, the sleeping bird is an allegory for a peaceful and serene life, even when the whole world tries desperately to rouse it."

Locarno Film Festival 2021 jury president Eliza Hittman praised the movie that it "playfully and artfully pays homage to pulp revenge drama from the '80s and '90s" with its "sensitive and subversive exploration of masculinity and femininity in a violent and macho world."

Photo Courtesy of Palari Films/Eriekn Juragan

 

Produced by Meiske Taurisia and Muhammad Zaidy, the 2021 movie puts its spotlight on Marthino Lio, who played Ajo Kawir and Ladya Cheryl as Iteung. Other notable cast members are Sal Priadi, Reza Rahadian, Lukman Sardi, Christine Hakim, Cecep Arif Rahman, and Ratu Felisha.

The cinematography was directed by Akiko Ashizawa. Match Factory Productions, Bombero International, Indonesian Palari Films, Singaporean Phoenix Films, and E&W Films act as its production companies.


International recognition

Held every August in Locarno, Switzerland, since its inception in 1946, the Locarno Film Festival is one of the oldest film festivals in the world. Each year, thousands of prestigious film fans and industry professionals meet here to exchange their cinematic diversity.

Screened four times within the festival, alongside its Golden Leopard contender Abel Ferrara's "Zeros and Ones" and other movies from top filmmakers - such as Shawn Levi's "Free Guy", James Cameron's "The Terminator,  or fellow Indonesian Kamila Andini's "The Seen and Unseen" ("Sekala Niskala") - "Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash" will not stop its journey abroad there.

Photo Courtesy of Palari Films/Eriekn Juragan

 

Ajo Kawir and the gang are also part of the upcoming Noir In Festival in Milan. Set to unspool in Milan from 10 to 15 December, the festival is held offline after last year's online edition. The festival, bringing together fiction and film noir, will also deliver the prestigious Raymond Chandler Award to an internationally acclaimed author.

"This 31st edition is wholly focused on the future, albeit mindful of tradition, and it comes together to form a heady mix which has always been the distinguishing feature of this one-of-a-kind festival on the international film scene", said Giorgio Gosetti, the event's artistic co-director.

Traditionally held in Lake Como, the film festival will feature "Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash" alongside Massimo Donati's debut movie "Il Diario di spezie", and this year's British sensation, young Prano Bailey-Bond's Sundance and Berlinale's Panorama line-up debut, "Censor."

The Directorate of Film, Music and New Media, Directorate General of Culture, part Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology of the Republic of Indonesia has granted the Indonesian Film Support Program for International Distribution to the team, allowing the movie to be distributed further to international film festivals.

 

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