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An Analysis of Vincent Monnikendam’s Mother Dao, the Turtle-like (1995)
Directions and Guidelines:
This assignment asks you to write a short paper analyzing Vincent Monnikendam’s film, Mother Dao, the Turtle-like (1995). For this assignment, please read Fatimah Tobing Rony’s essay, “The Quick and the Dead” (pp. 129–136 and from the bottom of 144 to 152), which provides the historical and formal context of Mother Dao, as well as one scholar’s interpretation of the political work done by the film. In addition, please draw upon material from class lectures and discussions. In essence, you will write a three-page essay analyzing Dutch colonial filmic representations of Indonesia. Your essay should be neatly typed and stapled (double-spaced with one-inch margins).
You will need to structure your essay around a central claim or thesis, and organize your visual analysis and discussion of two specific scenes from the film into a cohesive argument. Please note that this is different from a summary of the plot of the film. You will analyze the film, not write a synopsis of it. Moreover, there is no “plot” in Vincent Monnikendam’s film to summarize!
Important! Your thesis needs to be analytical rather than descriptive. It is not enough, for example, to simply say that the film shows the brutality of colonialism or differences between life for Indonesians vs. the Dutch. Those are givens. You need to go further, demonstrating *how* or *why* the film makes meaning in particular ways.
This assignment should not draw upon any readings from outside class; please substantively engage Fatimah Tobing Rony’s essay, The Quick and the Dead, along with any useful ideas, images, or arguments from other texts we’ve read or visually examined (Said, Arnold, our discussion of postcard imagery and ethnographic photography, and Mead’s film, Trance and Dance in Bali all could be rich sources); bring in these other texts throughout the paper to support your original, overarching claim and anchor your analysis. Accordingly, non-scholarly websites like Wikipedia are not appropriate sources for this assignment.
Questions to Help You Focus:
You may want to keep the following questions in mind when you view the film and begin to formulate a thesis: When was the original film footage shot, and who were the original audience(s) of this footage? What nationality is Vincent Monnikendam, the filmmaker? Does this matter? What is the significance of the title of the film and what does it reference? How are local people portrayed in the film? What are the primary subjects of the film footage? What do you think of the poetry inserted in the film compilation under the guise of “native voices”? How would you describe the film’s audio track? What is the relationship between the sounds and the film’s images? What did you learn about conditions of life under colonial rule in the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia)? What is the overall message of the film, would you say? What is it trying to perform in the present postcolonial period?
Here are the Mother Dao videos:
Here is another video you could use as a source:
Mead’s film, Trance and Dance in Bali
I provide the Mother Dao transcript in the additional materials, and also some reading that you could use in the essay.