3 top Indonesia documentaries you have to watch about the dark side of globalisation and tradition

RTD’s Indonesia documentaries go beyond the picture-postcard beaches beloved of holidaymakers. They expose some disquieting realities of life for modern Indonesians, caught between the dark side of certain cultural traditions and the environmental devastation caused by economic globalisation.

Here are our top three:

1. Enslaved by the Cult

In this film, RTD uncovers the disturbing truth behind East Java’s traditional dance known as Reog Ponorogo. The main organiser of this colourful spectacle is a revered shaman-like figure believed to possess spiritual powers, called the Warok. But his abilities could be lost forever should the Warok become involved with a woman. To keep his supernatural powers safe, Waroks hire young boys who follow their masters’ every order, including providing sexual favours.

2. Deadly Waters

Bargain hunters love cheap imported clothes, but who pays the full cost of their production? Indonesia’s Citarum river is known as the world’s most-polluted waterway. This is because of the way textiles are produced there. In some places, its water turns from murky to black and resembles a bubbling witches’ brew of domestic trash, sewage and industrial waste from hundreds of factories along the Citarum’s banks. Locals, aware of the contamination and health risks, continue to use it for drinking and other daily needs, as manufacturers keep dumping toxic chemicals and heavy metals in the river.

In this film, RTD travels to Indonesia to witness the degradation caused by the textiles industry and meet environmental activists on a mission to stop it.

3. SpOils of Destruction

Life was good for people in the Indonesian village of Semunying Jaya, comfortably living off the surrounding forests. That all changed when Duta Palma began to cut down the Dayak Iban people’s rainforest and replace it with oil palms. These produce palm oil, which is a mainstay of the modern agri-food industry worldwide.

In this film, RTD reveals the effects of this shift: the corporation’s plantations have poisoned the environment, and now farming, fishing, and hunting are virtually impossible. But the villagers aren’t willing to give up without a fight.

Check out all our Indonesia documentaries below: