Indonesia On The Global Culture Map

Cinemas are open and the Balinale is here, November 11 through 14. Tickets are free-of-charge (with prior registration), and in a great theatre complex, Cinema XXI on Jalan Kediri, at the Parc23 Mall, in Tuban, South Kuta.

Nothing beats the immediacy, the intimate emotional experience, of great cinema.

This 14th edition continues to deliver outstanding entertainment. Look for quality, thought-provoking independent, and award-winning short, feature, and documentaries from Indonesia and around the world following the digital and regulated in-person model that Toronto International Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival adopted.

“This year’s festival is in keeping with our ethos that film – more than any other medium – reaches an enormous audience locally and internationally, exciting imaginations, and the public’s interest to explore a destination, its culture, and people. By offering the in-person program free of charge we are positioning the festival to aid in welcoming people back to Bali and into the cinema,” says Founder and President Deborah Gabinetti.

Earlier this year, Balinale announced their new industry affiliations with organizations committed to connecting the world through film. American-Indonesian Cultural & Education Foundation has given their AICEF Prize for Cross-Cultural Filmmaking to first- or second-time filmmakers whose work robustly embraces cross-cultural themes. The Indonesian recipient was Harvan Agustriansyah for his captivating ‘Empu’ (Sugar on the Weaver’s Chair). And, yes, you can attend the screening.

Masked dancer from Black Magic: A Balinese Ancient Ritual Director: Romain Cailliez, Photo courtesy of Balinale

American Anji Clubb won the distinction of the American category, and you can preview her documentary film about Mongolians drawn to urban Chinese life, at . Preview Harvan’s film at

Another collaboration has been formed with the Busan, Hong Kong and Tokyo film festivals to create the Asian Film Awards Academy (AFAA). The Balinale later hosts this in Jakarta, in which a schedule of outstanding and award-winning Hong Kong films, with filmmaker Q&A seen via video links. 5-7 November, Jakarta, details at Bali.nale on Instagram.

Note that all Balinale public events and screenings, offered to fully vaccinated individuals, will strictly follow CHSE (cleanliness, health, safety, and environmental sustainability) protocols, with all venues having been issued CHSE – government certificates. This means open seats will be staggered, so no cuddling in the back row, yeah? Anyway, you’ll be glued to the screen with all its action, emotions, and revelations! Registration opens November 1 at

For more information on the festival and its programs, visit, BALINALE on facebook, and bali.nale on Instagram.



I have reported to readers that Documenta Fifteen happens next year, June 18 – September 25. In Kassel, Germany, this is an every-five-years, massive international art exhibition. Some documentas have been history-making and controversial, such as Documenta Five in 1972, which established the idea of curatorship as its own art form. Director Harald Zeemann showcased a huge array of photorealist painters like Chuck Close in the theme of Questioning Reality: Pictorial Worlds Today, and the idea of image was exploded in several directions. Because my father, Jim Melchert, had a wall-size looping slide projection piece in Documenta Five, I was able to attend the show and see a bit of Europe at a young age.

Fifty years on, 2022’s edition is cause for local celebration and your support. Ruangrupa, an Indonesian collective of art professionals, artists and curators, has been given the role of Documenta Fifteen Art Director, creating the format and handpicking the invited artists.

Using the theme Lumbung (community shared rice barn), Ruangrupa will introduce contemporary art lovers to what the world’s most active art collectives are doing, well under the establishment radar.

Collaborating artists, multifaceted documentary groups, political and social artivists, grass roots art spaces, artists networks: these are the movers of little money but great energy, sometimes undermining the usual elitist and intimidating white cube format of moneyed collectors seeking blue chip purchases and betting on the next art star. At work is the creation of an ecosystem of egalitarianism, shared resources, humor, integrity, and ideals. Common threads include how these groups engage with audiences who don’t often think about art, the creation of truly new aesthetics and repostulating the purpose of the artist.

Expect a good dose of surprise, a lot of humanity, and immersion in a global zeitgeist of inclusivity.

For a taste of the many pre-exhibition conversations that Ruangrupa have been starting, all around the world, have a look at this recent offering. It’s great stuff and you might want to visit all the posted meetups:


So do consider supporting Ruangrupa’s moment in the art world’s spotlight, and join me in Kassel next year. The it-takes-an-archipelago inspiration which you’ll bring back to Bali may just start some great new networking of your own.

Get to the Documenta FAQs beginning here:



Legal questions?

Getting to know your way around Indonesian policing and law can drive an expat into culture shock. Thanks to Duta Bina Bhuana Foundation (DBB), we also now have a physical resource of law students, paralegals, and lawyers giving clear legal information. We now have The People’s Law Center, launched October 1 by Indonesian law educator Prof. RA Retno Murni and Dr. Y Sari Murti Widiyastuti (both women).

DBB board member Lucia Margareta autographs the People’s Law Center sign on its October 1 opening ceremony. Courtesy of DBB Foundation

Depending on private donations (gratefully accepted at and through their on-site DBB Charity Shop), this is a group of legal eagles who can educate both Indonesians and foreigners, seeking advice in civil, commercial, criminal, customary or family law. Even a plan for setting up a business can begin here. This is not free legal representation, but it is pro bono advice from intern law students, and vital education for the public.

Sari Richardson, daughter of one of the DBB founders and a former president of Bali International Womens Association (BIWA), is one of the group’s most ardent promoters. Sari has long cared deeply about domestic violence and under DBB she has developed Srikandi Justice, a multifaceted program in support of vulnerable women and children. This is a dedicated, full-service support team, with safe rooms, day care, and other aid. This should be a first-call resource if you know someone in danger.

People’s Law Center hotline: +6281949778670 and Jl Pandu 61, Dulang, Bali.


By Renee Melchert Thorpe

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