PROMISED PARADISE

Leonard Retel Helmrich
Indonesia, Netherlands 2005 | 50 Min. | BetaSP, OmeU
Q&A with:
Leonard Retel Helmrich

Encased in a card­board tele­vi­sion set, trou­ba­dour Agus reen­acts the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 attacks in New York in front of a public of chil­dren, using the pack­ag­ing of a toy fea­tur­ing the World Trade Center and a weird look­ing fish-plane. “Every­thing you see on tele­vi­sion is a lie: here the people are made of flesh and blood.” He explains in his pre­am­ble, stikking his head through the screen. This is one of the illu­sions and shams that Leonard Retel Helm­rich has decid­ed to track down togeth­er with the artist, in an Indone­sia that remains scared by ter­ror­ist attacks and Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism. At the heart of this polit­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al quest, a haunt­ing ques­tion per­sists: How can one believe that killing can lead to heaven? 

In a pro­found cros­sex­am­i­na­tion of rep­re­sen­ta­tions, PROMISED PARADISE con­fronts real­i­ty to the­atri­cal per­for­mances through scenes inspired by acts of vio­lence that shat­ter the coun­try. Agus‘ behav­iour is provoca­tive. Express­ing his indig­na­tion towards the attacks or address­ing var­i­ous char­ac­ters such as a muezzin in the streets of Bali and Jakar­ta, he desta­bi­lizes his inter­locuters. In order to be alowed a visit to the arrest­ed “Bali-bomber” Imam Samidra, he is pre­tend­ing to be sym­pa­thet­ic to his goals, but in the end, the edited inter­view turns out to be an inge­nious assem­blage of Agus’questions and answers out of a blackmarket-videotape.