Making paradise: The Island of Demons (1933) by Friedrich Dalsheim

Gustavo Odim Amaral Beck, Louise von Plessen

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Abstract

The present article discusses visual anthropology, otherness and documentary practice as research by the example of the cultural film THE ISLAND OF DEMONS (1933) directed by German filmmaker and ethnologist Friedrich Dalsheim (1895-1936). THE ISLAND OF DEMONS was shot on Bali in 1931/32, at a time when Bali, belonging to the Dutch East Indies, the Dutch colonial empire, was perceived as the newly discovered „last paradise“ and due to the presence of the painter, musician and bohemian Walter Spies (1895-1942) mutated into the most popular escapist island among Western artists including Vicki Baum and Charlie Chaplin. Until today, THE ISLAND OF DEMONS is a unique ethnographic and historic document of Balinese culture, its village community life in harmony with nature, its rituals, beliefs, music and above all its cultural dances such as the famous Kecak dance, the Sanghyang Dedari and Legong dance as well as an extraordinary study of documentary practice in the realm of documentary and feature film since Dalsheim and his team did not come to Bali with a developed or „Europeanized“ or „Americanized“ screenplay, but developed it only on location with the Balinese village elders and community after months of discussions and ethnographic field research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-24
Number of pages14
JournalDIFFRACTIONS
Volume2
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

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Filmography

MENSCHEN IM BUSCH (PEOPLE IN THE BUSH) (1930, Friedrich Dalsheim)

DIE INSEL DER DÄMONEN (THE ISLAND OF DEMONS) (1933, Friedrich Dalsheim)

DIE KOPFJÄGER VON BORNEO (THE HEADHUNTERS OF BORNEO) (1936, Friedrich Dalsheim)

THE KRISS (1931, Armand Denis and André Roosevelt)

WUNDERLAND BALI (1927, Lola Kreutzberg)

LEGONG – DANCE OF THE VIRGINS (1935, by Henri de la Falaise)

BALI: SANGHYANG AND KECAK DANCE; BALI: ROYAL CREMATION (1926, Walter Spies / Willy Mullens)

Keywords

  • Documentary practice as research
  • History of ethnographic cinema
  • Visual anthropology
  • Weimar cinema
  • Otherness

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