Crazy Little Thing Called War


It’s all over my Facebook timeline and it featured on so I suppose it’s officially ‘breaking news’: Jim Taihuttu, a Dutch-Moluccan director, is about to make a film on the ‘politionele acties’. But are we excited because it is about the ‘politionele acties’? Or has it got to do with the fact that a Dutch-Moluccan director is going to make this film?

For those of you who have never heard of the Dutch term ‘politionele acties’; it is basically a very weird Dutch word for ‘war’. These ‘politionele acties’ started in 1947 and were an attempt of the Dutch to get back their precious colony the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch politicians at that time strategically decided to never speak publically about military measures but to qualify the operation as ‘police measures of a strictly limited character.’* After the Second World War and the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies, the Dutch lost control of its colony. Sukarno and Mohammed Hatta proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Indonesia the 17th of August 1945. Of course the Dutch did not like this, to put it mildly. They wanted their colony back so they sent their army to the shores of Indonesia. At the end this Dutch operation failed. The number of deaths on the side of the Indonesians is estimated to be 30 times higher than on the side of the Dutch. These were, in a very terrible nutshell, the ‘politionele acties’.

This episode of Dutch colonial history will be translated into a movie by Taihuttu who himself is actually part of this history since his own ancestors came from the Dutch East Indies. So if there is celebration over the fact that a Dutch-Moluccan director is making this film, what are we cheering for? We should still wonder whether he would be able to shed a new perspective on this history. Is this going to be the first film made from a decolonial perspective on the ‘politionele acties’? Will it be free from the neo-colonial images and orientalist stereotypes about the East? We will have to wait and see. But if he would succeed, we would really have a cause for celebration.

And please. Let us pray that the cast will actually consist of people that are from Indo-European, Indonesian, Chinese or Moluccan descent. Picture the Soprano’s with a Latin-American cast. It would have been kind of problematic. However in Dutch Cinema we can easily see Katja Schuurman (of Dutch-Antillean descent) play some hysterically horny Indo girl. For now we know that the working title is Ratu Adil and that Dutch-Tunesian Marwan Kenzari will have a leading role. That last fact can only keep us guessing. My bet: he will play the dandy Indo boy going for a white girl, but I might be mistaken.

*For further reading: Ad van Liempt ‘Een mooi woord voor oorlog’ Den Haag, 1994.


2 responses to “Crazy Little Thing Called War

  1. According to de Volkskrant (can’t link in this comment), Kenzari will play the role of Raymond Westerling, the Dutch special forces commander in the Indonesian independence war.

    Wikipedia states that Westerling was nicknamed “the Turk”, because he grew up in Istanbul as a child to a Greek mother and Dutch father. Supposedly he converted to Islam as well.

    The Volkskrant writes that Westerling is going to be a supporting character, with the protagonist being a Dutch 18 year old soldier named Johan, who serves under the commander. So while it’ll probably be a white perspective, your guesses so far seem to be incorrect 🙂

  2. To state that the movie will be a challenging project is an understatement. The perspectives on what transpired in South-Sulawesi are contradicting. Knowing that a significant part of the Speciale Troepen that were deployed there, consisted of Moluccan soldiers adds even more to the complexities that face director Jim Taihuttu. Even though it is fiction, many will look for a ‘truth’ and we all know that sometimes the fictional and mediated representation of an event can be stronger than the event itself.
    What is clear however, was that Westerling had support on the highest level within the military leadership.

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