Off-Putting Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly Explores Minority Identity
Chinese-Indonesian director Edwin's debut feature about minority identity cycles through installation-style segments that evoke a sense of being in limbo and off-kilter. Veering between cliché and culturally specific code, the vignettes can baffle: a slo-mo badminton match pitting China against Indonesia; a blind dentist getting drilled on a chair by a sexually frustrated couple; a head-scarved contestant on the local variant of American Idol singing Stevie Wonder. But the unambiguous wound at the heart of the film is footage of Jakarta's post-bust May 1998 riots and the ensuing murderous campaign against Chinese business owners there. This relatively recent past, little-remembered among Western audiences, toughens one episode about bullies waylaying a student for his choice of friends. Funded by the Hubert Bals Fund out of Rotterdam (where Edwin's shorts have played), the work has pedigree, steadfast confidence, and a stoically twisted sense of humor. Visually, the filmmaker draws on the dented depth-of-field of (fellow Bals alum) Tsai Ming-liang and the deliberate pans of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The resulting experience could very easily be described as off-putting—which well suits the uneasiness of the subject. Preceding the feature is a nifty short silent-film riff on a folk tale about a princess and a dog.
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