The Komedi Bioscoop: Early Cinema in Colonial Indonesia

The Komedi Bioscoop: Early Cinema in Colonial Indonesia

The Komedi Bioscoop: Early Cinema in Colonial Indonesia

The Komedi Bioscoop: Early Cinema in Colonial Indonesia


The Komedi Bioscoop traces the emergence of a local culture of movie-going in the Netherlands Indies (present-day Indonesia) from 1896 until the First World War in 1914. It outlines the introduction of the new technology by independent touring exhibitors, the constitution of a market for moving picture shows, the embedding of moving picture exhibitions within the local popular entertainment scene, and the Dutch colonial authorities' efforts to control film consumption and distribution. Focusing on the cinema as a social institution in which technology, race, and colonialism converged, moving picture venues in the Indies--ranging from canvas or bamboo tents to cinema palaces of brick and stone--are perceived as liminal spaces in which daily interactions across boundaries could occur within colonial Indonesia's multi-ethnic and increasingly polarized colonial society.


This book is an outcome of my PhD research conducted at the Research Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON) at Utrecht University. It formed part of the research project “The Nation and Its Other: the Emergence of Modern Popular Imagery and Representations”, which was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) Cultural Dynamics programme. It would not have been accomplished without the support of scholars, friends, family, librarians and archivists. While these few lines cannot be sufficient to convey my gratitude, I hope to here nevertheless express my deep thanks to all those who have made it possible to set off on this adventure.

I would like to thank my PhD supervisors, Frank Kessler and André van der Velden, for their constant guidance, advice, encouragement and kindness. Frank’s wide knowledge of film history and much beyond provided boundless inspiration and, on a more practical level, plenty of leads to references and sources strewn throughout the length and breadth of this work. André’s persistent and thoughtful questioning helped me gain control of the research path which, at times, threatened to endlessly schlep me around.

Many thanks are due to the members of my PhD committee: Joris van Eijnatten, Sonja de Leeuw, Martin Loiperdinger, Henk Schulte Nordholt, and William Uricchio. They have provided valuable input and insightful comments at various stages of this writing process.

A special thank you to Sabine Lenk, whose close reading and editorial feedback were absolutely vital in transforming the PhD thesis into the current book version. Her constructive input and eye for detail have been greatly appreciated.

John Libbey’s professionalism, support, and enduring patience have greatly facilitated the final stages of bringing this work to print. Thank you to Matthew Cohen who took the time to counsel and share from his vast knowledge of popular entertainment in the region. His advice on the painstaking process of collecting and organising the source materials has been instrumental in facilitating a smooth writing experience.

Judith Thissen’s active support and involvement during the research process helped me to explore further options and to discount the craziness of studying (yet) another language in order to be able to conduct this research. I thank you immensely.

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