In the past thirty years studies of early cinema, mostly focusing on the history of film production and exhibition in the West, have been preoccupied with examining the emergence of moving images within their intermedial sphere. The case of moving picture exhibition and consumption in turn-of-the-century colonial Indonesia, with its rich selection of itinerant indigenous and Western amusements on offer, thus presents an especially intriguing case. This article situates itself within this transnational stream of commercial entertainments, known in Malay by the generic term komedi. In the process, it examines stories adapted across different media and cultural contexts, which were consumed by local audiences of various ethnicities and social standing in colonial society, specifically highlighting the conditions that led to an exceptional 1906 local film production of the popular folklore story of Nyai Dasima. While no known footage from this production survives, this paper proposes an intermedial reconstruction by looking at surviving traces of the text in other turn-of-the-century media forms. By exploring the re-incarnations of Nyai Dasima, alongside other popular stories shared across media platforms in colonial Indonesia, the article fleshes out how early entrepreneurs of moving pictures were utilizing intermedial connections in order to embed the new medium within the local media landscape. Conversely, by drawing on contemporary newspaper reports in Dutch
and Malay, this article aims to show that local spectators made sense of the new medium of moving pictures through negotiations with and in relation to established entertainment forms they were habituated in.


colonial history, early cinema, Indonesia, movie-going

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)