Film Merah Putih

Aug 24th, 2009, in History, by

Review of film Merah Putih, evil colonialists & brave patriots.

As promised, a review of Merah Putih, which we viewed in the Wednesday late-night screening, barely fifty people in the audience, at Bioskop Slipi.


As you’d expect from a country which, despite its constant troubles and endless disappointments, maintains a healthy national pride, (and in contrast to American and a lot of other Western countries where one’s own armed forces are often cast as fools, villains or worse) the film is unashamedly patriotic, and the Dutch depicted as almost Luciferian in their wickedness. (My resident Indonesian consultant was only moved to comment once,

jahat benar

during one of the first Netherlands atrocities. I don’t doubt they were no angels, but history suggests that every side in every war contained a fair sprinkling of sinners, and saints)

Apart from the satanic Hollanders, the least likeable character is the posh twerp Marius, (Darius Sinathrya) who looks down on just about everyone and gets straight on the case of the feisty Christian Tomas, (Donny Alamsyah), while to provide some sentiment of pancasila we have the Hindu Dayan (Rifnu Wikana) and a serious honourable Muslim named Amir (Lukman Sardi) as well as an all-purpose nationalist, Soerono (Zumi Zola).

Merah Putih

They all join up, fall in, fall out and ultimately redeem themselves, predictable, I suppose, but full of action and heroism.

The ladies play important but lesser roles, Melati, Amir’s pregnant wife (Astri Nurdin) and Soerono’s sister (Rahayu Saraswati) – again unlike western movies, these actresses rely on their talent rather than having their boobs flop out or a quickie every time the action slows down, which it rarely does, the grand finale being an ambush, the depleted handful of Indonesian soldiers re-inforced by the male survivors of a village burned and massacred by the evil Dutch.

One wishes that the imbecilic louts who ran amok in South Jakarta on Hari Kemerdekaan could use the heroic characters portrayed in this movie as their role models, rather than whomsoever they have chosen from gang-banger US crime yarns.

Whatever the short-comings of the men who fought for self-determination, (and I’m not talking about those who surfaced at the end and claimed the political credit), they were brave and idealistic, as well as patriotic, qualities that appear to be as lacking in the ruling class today as in the afore-mentioned louts near Blok M earlier this week.

107 Comments on “Film Merah Putih”

  1. David says:

    Anyone read…Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies

    Apparently gives the pro Joe argument.

  2. sighjay says:

    Keep deluding yourself however if you want to believe that the Communist threat to the US was all a phantasmagora,

    BB, please don’t keep twisting my words to make your argument, it seems to be the only thing you have left to throw at it. I didn’t say any such thing.

    agents of a hostile foreign power

    Got anything of substance to back the assertion that these people in Hollywood were ‘agents’? No? Because that’s the way McCarthy flew as well..innuendo, and half truth.

    boo-hoo if they get a little bit of their own medicine from time to time.
    I guess you are not alone in thinking such and it flows through to the present day, with the torture arguments. Fortunately the founding documents of the USA, and the way, with the odd hiccup, they have been interpreted along the way throws an overwhelming ‘no’ at that philosophy. Either we are different and always different or we are them. You simply can’t be a more righteous version of ‘them’ and claim any superiority but that’s what you are doing.

    Stalin was inflicting on hundreds of millions of people

    But the death squads. napalm, and millions dead in the defence of your philosophy are more righteous I guess. I’m not a Soviet sympathiser by any means, and agree Stalin was a monster, but the lines became very blurred in the cold war. For example Curtis Le May’s relentless drive in the 50s to pre-emptively nuke Russia (brilliantly documented in the doco Baiting The Bear) was no less monstrous than many of the Soviet acts. And this was seriously discussed at the highest level of the US government, with only Eisenhower (who I think deserves much more respect than he generally gets as a sane voice amongst those who would likely have destroyed us all) pulling it in. LeMay felt it was his responsibility to ignore those above him and provoke Soviet Russia..force a war. This is a man who was at the highest level of the US government and yet was actively following a policy that would likely have destroyed much of the world. He was allowed to remain there through to the 1960s, despite his actions, which bordered on treasonable.

  3. Berlian Biru says:

    There was no blurring of lines in the 1950’s, it was absolutely crystal clear; Stalin, Mao and all the other satellite Communist regimes were presiding over living hellholes administered by a party which had international pretensions and wanted to take over the United States.

    The US Communists were in up to their bloody elbows in treachery to their own country in favour of the most dreadful regime in human history, had they got the chance they would have recreated the same system in the United States. For them the US Constitution was a meaningless piece of bourgeois nonsense that they would use when they needed and dispose of when the time came.

    The important point is that the convictions were unconstitutional not that the people convicted weren’t Communists, they were and were proud to admit the fact. To listen to some here you’d think the Communists were frail dainty little flowers who just wanted to make the world a better place full of butterflies and fluffy bunnies, they weren’t, the Communists were thugs in Russia and they were thugs in the US too, just read up about what happened to union workers who resisted the Communist gang bosses.

    The Supreme Court later decided the convictions were unconstitutional and therefore they were overturned and rightly so, that is the way the US Constitution works and it is a credit to the solidity of that document that the Communists so despised, therefore proving that the US system was much better and fairer than the horrendous system that those despicable wretches in the Communist Party were trying to impose. To equate the US with Stalin’s Russia is to buy into the Kool-Aid fantasies of Communist apologists.

    Their convictions were unconstitutional but the Communists were still treasonous bastards who were lucky to be trying their hand at treason in a decent, fair society, if they had tried that sort of thing in Russia they’d have been taken down to the basement of the Lubianka to be tortured and shot, after Beria had raped one or two of them first of course. But please do keep living in the looney-tune world were the USSR and the US were just as bad as each other, it’s because they weren’t and the USSR was defeated that you are able to type your opinions freely on the internet today.

  4. Odinius says:

    BB said:

    The lawyers were not convicted under the Smith Act.

    Didn’t say they were. Said the CPA members were. The lawyers defending them were convicted on trumped up charges of “contempt of congress” designed to dissuade lawyers from giving suspects their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to legal representation and due process.

    This is the essence of McCarthyism. It went from a movement to root out people actually committing sedition, to a witch hunt based on demonizing specific political views about what direction the country should head in. That’s the most un-American thing I can think of. Glad the country saw sense, eventually.

  5. Odinius says:

    Also, BB…who cares whether Flynn had any connection to the Communist Party? What matters is whether or not there was evidence that she committed sedition, and there was not. the FBI and prosecutors, in fact, made it up. Hence, witch hunt.

  6. Berlian Biru says:

    Simply change the terms of the debate from “Communists” to “Nazis” and see if you need to ask such a question Odinius.

    The Communists were traitors, working hand in glove with the Soviet Union to undermine the US Constitution, they were supported by, and gave assistance to, the most bloodstained tyranny in the history of mankind and yet you still fail to see what the problem was.

    Had the Communists won you wouldn’t need to ask such silly questions.

  7. Odinius says:

    BB: no need to build a straw man to prove Godwin’s Law:

    As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

    But since you went there, no it does not matter if they were convicted of being members of the American Communist Party or American Nazi Party. After all, there are no outlawed political parties or ideologies under US law, and the right to make stupid political decisions is constitutionally protected, as they should be.

    What matters is not ideology or party membership, but whether individuals entered into conspiracies to commit actual crimes, such as espionage or sedition. Some did. But many others did not, and were convicted–either in court or merely in the stage-managed court of public opinion–for the association. That’s why McCarthyism is the embarrassing stain on American history that it is.

    You don’t have to sympathize with communism to despise McCarthyism for the travesty of justice that it was. As the saying goes:

    I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

  8. Ross says:

    it’s not what American Communists said, Odinius, but what they did. They were all over the government and the media, abusing positions of trust. Academia is still rotten with them, e.g. people like Obama’s pal Ayers, unrepentant communist terrorist.

    As for black-listing, why should anyone give a job to somebody who hates all their country stands for.

  9. sputjam says:

    I dunno about the movie, but if not for the dutch, indonesia would be fragmented into smaller states.

    reason why the dutch were mean to indonesian was because they wanted to colonise and live there, like what the british did in north america and australia. (we all know what happened to the natives in those countries)

  10. Odinius says:


    Being a communist is not a crime. The US Constitution very explicitly states that political views are not to be criminalized. If crimes of espionage or sedition took place, then they should have been prosecuted as such. But beyond that, it’s unconstitutional, and clashes with the most fundamental values the country was founded upon.

    As the South Park song goes:

    Freedom isn’t free…it costs a buck-oh-five.

  11. Odinius says:

    Sputjam said:

    I dunno about the movie, but if not for the dutch, indonesia would be fragmented into smaller states.

    reason why the dutch were mean to indonesian was because they wanted to colonise and live there, like what the british did in north america and australia. (we all know what happened to the natives in those countries)

    Did they really want to live there, though? Some did, but not that many. Dutch mostly wanted to corner the spice trade, at there came a point at which it was more efficient to do so via conquest than the preferential trade policies of the VOC.

    As for what “Indonesia” would look like without the Dutch…who knows? If there were also no British, then it’s unlikely there’d be a border where the Indonesian-Malaysian one is. Maybe smaller states, maybe a bigger one, maybe two states about the same size as the current ones but placed differently…who knows?

  12. ET says:

    Odinius said

    Did they really want to live there, though? Some did, but not that many.

    Most of them didn’t want to live there, judging from the literature on the subject. Many of them became ill (malaria) or couldn’t stand the climate. Their aim was generally to become rich and retire in Holland. But some stayed for idealistic reasons or because nothing was waiting for them in Holland.

    But it’s clear that in the beginning colonialism, or the reaction to it, was the unifying force to bind the peoples of the archipelago together in their struggle for independence. To keep it together however required the iron fist and a careful maintain of xenophobic propaganda of which this film is an example.

  13. Ross says:

    Indonesian patriotism is no worse than other people’s. The movie review that prompted this long discussion merely said that the Dutch were depicted as the baddies, and in a film made by Indonesians about Indonesia’s war of independence, fair enough. In healthier times, notably 1939-45, Germans were the bad guys and Brits and Americans alternated as the goodies, depending who made the movie. Script-writers should be patriots, as should we all.

    Unfortunately, in the West, much of the entertainment industry is in the pockets of anti-patriots. Hence the terrible tilt in most Vietnam War films against the US attempt to stop tyranny. Hence the line-up of ‘stars’ to cheer-lead for Castro’s nasty little despotism, and imbecilic cinematic odes to the cowardly psycho Guevara. And Mr. Stone’s odd new film praising the marxist Chavez.

    Point 2 An abstract belief in ‘communism’ may not open to criminalisation, but organised Communists, like the CPUSA, were conscious dedicated instruments of a foreign and hostile power, to which American Communists owed their first allegiance.
    Western Communist parties were paid by the Soviets to do their dirty work and the spies, from Alger Hiss to the Rosenbergs, were guilty of inflicting tremendous harm on their own countries. Happily, the Rosenbergs got the death penalty, though Hiss got off very lightly – he deserved to hang.

    No sane government is going to keep enemy agents on its pay-roll. Of course Communists should be debarred from government and educational employ. They seek to instal dictatorship and their creed obliges them to promote their ideology when they can, especially if their victims are vulnerable children.

    Would you, Odinius, knowingly employ somebody whose creed was class-hatred? Schools and the movie industry back then were quite within their rights to fire Communists, and it’s a pity times have changed, allowing creatures like Hanoi Jane Fonda to make handsome livings from a society whose enemies they cherish.

  14. Odinius says:


    If I owned a pizza parlour, and had a cook who didn’t like rich people and hated the government, but didn’t bring it to work and didn’t engage in any criminal behavior, it would be unlawful of me to fire him, even if his views came to my attention. However, were he to engage in seditious or criminal behavior outside of work, or use the job to preach his political views, then I would have a problem with it. Many of those blacklisted as a result of McCarthyism did not want their private politics to become a public affair, and neither committed criminal offenses nor used their positions to evangelize.

    That’s the crucial difference. What one supports in one’s private political life is protected speech, full spot.

  15. Ross says:

    Why on earth would it, or should it, be unlawful to fire him? It’s your pizza parlour.

  16. Andy says:

    Indonesians love movies which falsely depict their country and make them look like something they’re not. The reason the dutch lost the independence struggle was because the rest of the world (bules included) did not support their continual colonistion and recognised the Indonesian state. Not becuase their people won any epic battles in a true conflict. Remember most dutch soldiers had just finished liberating their country from the Nazis.
    So they can watch this rubbish while not being able to watch a true story like’Balibo’ which shows the military of Indonesia in it’s true light.

  17. Odinius says:

    Ross said,

    Why on earth would it, or should it, be unlawful to fire him? It’s your pizza parlour.

    The right to personal political views is constitutionally protected in the United States, and it’s against US law to base employment decisions on political views, unless those views can be demonstrated to directly interfere with the work being done. For example, it’s not lawful for a gynecologist to fire an employee because he or she is for or against abortion, unless that person’s views cause them to act in such a way as to interfere with the practice. It’s also unlawful for employers to even ask about political party affiliation, or to base hiring decisions upon them. There are exceptions, of course, but only for that very narrow set of jobs where political party affiliation actually would directly impact the job, e.g. working for a political party.

    That’s US law, which the McCarthyites and followers conveniently ignored.

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