Red Cross on Noesa Penida (1948)

The Netherlands endeavours to uphold a positive image of colonisation amidst vile police actions in various parts of the archipelago.

A unique Dutch documentary, shot in black and white, called "Noesa Penida – Oost-Indonesië, Het Roode Kruis op Expeditie". In three minutes it shows interesting details of a monthly visit by the Red Cross to "Coral Island" Nusa Penida. The Red Cross team leaves from mainland Bali, possibly Kusamba or Padangbai, to cross the straight which divides Nusa Penida from Bali.

Above short film (left with English, right with Indonesian subtitles) was originally part of a news bulletin series called "Wordende Wereld" (World in Development), produced by Multifilm Batavia (-Haarlem) commissioned by the Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst (Central Office of Government Information). This particular short documentary is given the title 'Werken van barmhartigheid. De Mobiele Teams van het Roode Kruis' (Works of Mercy. The Mobile Teams of the Red Cross) and was narrated by W. van den Berge.

A total of 133 short films were produced between 1947 and 1950 for the Dutch market, but apparently were not terribly popular with cinemas in The Netherlands where these documentaries were launched in November 1947. The Dutch colonial government was in dire need of propaganda material in uproarious times in the Dutch Indies when co-called Police Actions took place at this same time. Two popular items in these short movies were the restructuring of the Indies economy and native cultures.

Yet, it is unknown when this documentary was shot. The next documentary in this series is on the arrest of Soekarno in Yogyakarta on 18 December 1948. The cloud formations in the sky above Nusa Penida and especially Mount Agung on mainland Bali suggest the rainy season. Therefore, a likely date would be anywhere between October and December 1948. In this period the Dutch obviously needed positive publicity to create goodwill as international pressure mounted on The Netherlands to let go of their colony and to move out completely from the East Indies. The Red Cross was a perfect vehicle of publicity to show Holland and the rest of the world that the colonising power had nothing but good intentions, as - indeed, in this respect - they did, says an old Balinese informant who remembers these visits well. In fact, he says, the Dutch were perhaps best known in Bali for their medical care and aid to underdeveloped areas.

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The music score to this short documentary is the well-known, if sometimes dramatic "Jupiter Symphony", no.41 (KV 551) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The first movement, or parts of it, with contrasting motifs, is the background to the first half of the documentary, and from the moment the Red Cross enters a village in the interior, after being dutifully announced by a man beating a wooden drum (Kul-kul), (parts of) the second movement (in F major) is heard, much softer and more poetical than the first movement.

The narrator's story in between double inverted commas (followed by the English translation) and a description of events and images (indicated with '>') is given below.

"Noesa Penida - Oost Indonesië, Het Roode Kruis op Expeditie" (Noesa Penida - East Indonesia, The Red Cross on Expedition)

"Maandelijks gaat vanuit Bali een Rode-Kruisteam naar Nusa Penida, een tussen Bali en Lombok gelegen koraaleilandje." (Each month, from Bali a Red Cross Team visits Nusa Penida, a small coral island that sits in between Bali and Lombok.)

> View to landscape of the north coast and mangrove forests on Lembongen and Ceningan. On the flat-bottomed boat is a jeep with a basket on the front trunk, possibly containing medicines, a tea towel with contents and a kaki, military (?) shoulder bag. A male Red Cross Worker is sitting on the back of the jeep whilst enjoying a meal. A small outrigger arrives alongside the boat and in it are two children.

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"Wegens het klippengevaar, worden de leden van het team en geneesmiddelen met kleine prauwen naar het strand gebracht." (Due to the hazardous coral reefs, the Red Cross members and medicines are ferried over to the beach in small proas.)

> A Red Cross Worker with a stethoscope round his neck, dressed in kaki shorts and high socks, helps a woman to get into the proa. She wears a long skirt beneath her knees and a shirt with short sleeves. On her head she wears a headband, rather broad at the rear, the back of her head of covered, and a knot at the front. All workers have a Red Cross insignia on both shoulders. The proa is peddled away and leaves the side of the flat-bottomed boat. Next to the boy peddling the proa, there is a Dutch woman without a headband carrying luggage on her lap, and in the background the mangrove bushes and the rocks underneath are still visible.

> A scene filmed from Nusa Penida: behind a proa on the beach five other outriggers are visible coming towards the camera. The woman wearing a headband and sunglasses gets out of the proa and gathers her belongings.

"Slechts op een plaats, aan de noordkust van dit onherbergzame eiland, bij de desa Samputan, kan het platbodemvaartuigje aan het strand komen om de jeep te lossen." (Only at once place, on the north coast of this inhospitable island, at the village of Samputan, the flat-bottomed boat is able to reach the shore to unload the jeeps.)

On Nusa Penida, there is no such place as 'Samputan'. It may well be Sampalan, on the north coast, since from there to the west the rocks and mangroves if Lembongan are clearly visible.

> A jeep is being loaded, and in the background the coastline of mainland Bali and Mount Agung are clearly visible, a splendid sight. A male Red Cross Worker comes ashore. He wears a shirt with short sleeves, shorts, a hat which at one side is folded upwards. Behind this man, there are two local men carrying large sticks perched on their shoulders ('pikul', to carry heavy weight equally positioned at both ends of the stick), a proa paddler wearing a white headband and a man carrying a small box. The woman without the headband and another female Red Cross Worker also arrive at the beach. A local woman is seen carrying a number of baskets on her head. Luggage is unpacked and the jeep is unloaded on the beach.

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"Langs slecht berijdbare weggetjes worden desa’s bezocht." (Along barely accessible pathways various villages are visited.)

A jeep with license plate number 'DK 111' leaves with two men and two women in it. While the jeep is filmed from the side and then from the back, in the background the hilly northeastern coast of Nusa Penida is shown, possibly near Suana. The jeep drives on and descends towards a landscape on the north coast. This time, in the background, mainland Bali and its mountains are partly covered in clouds. Dramatic cloud formations, befitting Mozart's "Jupiter", and cumulus are visible, typical for the wet monsoon. The jeep drives into a village and is followed by a crowd of people.

"Bij de komst van het Rode Kruis wordt de bevolking gewaarschuwd door middel van de Kul-kul." (At the arrival of the Red Cross, the local population is gathered together by sounding the Kul-kul.)

> A young lad beats the 'Kul-kul' with a stick announcing the arrival of the Red Cross Team. Hordes of people start gathering in, first the young and fit and after a while the elderly and sick.

> Scene filmed from underneath a roof made of 'alang-alang' grass: in the shade of an impressive Banyan tree with enormous and compact root structure two tables are set up for the Red Cross Workers. This tree may be a Ficus benjamina, sacred to Hindus, but also another ficus subspecies locally called a 'Bunut' tree, very common on Nusa Penida but not held sacred by the Balinese. The jeep is parked there too, and perhaps 200 people, amongst whom some little girls, a woman resting her chin on her arm, a young boy, two toddlers and about ten elderly women, all of them bare-breasted, look on. Men and children stand under the alang-alang roof, and after a handsome crown has gathered, a man walks in carrying an old and apparently sick man on his back. There is also an older, lean man who walks forward, he finds is difficult to walk.

> A young woman with a child on her arm is followed by the camera, and the camera focusses in on the table where the Red Cross Workers are seated. A white man with a neat parting, and his female colleague with a tuft assist an older woman wearing a headband. They give her an injection. She is looking rather stern, looks at the camera and puts the syringe down on the table. The female Red Cross Worker folds the patient's arm upwards and tells her to walk. The young lady seen before protects her infant who is given an injection in the left arm. The baby is crying.

> A young girl with a skin disease is show in a long and close-up shot. The right part of her face is scabbed and crusted, and parts of her right eye and the skin above it are covered with crusts as well. Her left hand is also covered with scabs or crusts. She supports her head with her right hand, which is also covered with scabs. A dreadful sight.

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"Het eiland telt 36.000 bewoners, waarvan er velen, door gebrek aan water, lijden aan huid- en oogziekten." (The island numbers 36,000 inhabitants of whom many suffer from skin and eye diseases caused by a lack of water.)

> A local man administers white powder with a cotton bud on the left foot of a young man who also seems to suffer from a skin disorder. He supports his head with his left arm while he is treated. The Red Cross Worker with a tuft puts drops of a medicine in the eyes of two girls and a boy. Her male colleague is pulling a tooth from a man wearing a fez. This man was seen earlier on in the documentary and the only one visibly wearing clothes which probably indicate he's a Muslim.

> The crowd disperses and women and girls are seen to be walking away.

"De bevolking uit haar dankbaarheid voor de ontvangen medische hulp, in het geven van kleine geschenken." (The local population shows its gratitude for receiving medical care by handing over small gifts.)

> An old man hands one of the female Red Cross Workers a young chicken, who puts the chicken in a wicker basket that already contains three chickens. Three Red Cross workers stand and drink from coconuts, and a woman with dark hair smiles and looks at what's happening since, of course, drinking coconut milk with good table manners is not easy.


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