MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 12, 2024: SWEET DREAMS

Writer-director Ena Sendijarević’s strange, sumptuous critique of Dutch colonialism Indonesia during the early 1900s is rich with beautifully composed shots but the lacerating tragic tone is mixed with sardonic wit. From the opening shot of a boy killing a tiger that is then carted through the cane fields on the shoulders of Indonesian natives, sugar will be the undoing of everything and everyone by murder or suicide. Central to the action is Siti, the Indonesian housekeeper for plantation owner Jan and his bored wife Agathe. Their days of oppressive rule are quickly wilting in the torrid heat. There is unrest among the exploited indigenous workers; one of whom suggests that Siti poison their overseers. But Jan, we soon learn, is the father of Siti’s young son Karel who is treated as his heir and identifies with the colonizers. It’s Karel, the product of patriarchy, exploitation and greed, who is left with the spoils but at what cost? Full of eerie, surreal beauty and a touch of madness, Sendijarević’s twisted, tragic tale is a stunning film.

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Ena Sendijarević talks SWEET DREAMS (TIFF 2023) – Tara Karajica interviews

Bosnian-Dutch filmmaker Ena Sendijarević’s her sophomore film is set on a remote Indonesian island during the waning days of the colonial era. Sweet Dreams is the story of two women who are left to their own devices after the death of Jan, patriarch owner of a sugar plantation. Sendijarević grew up in the Netherlands, a country with a long and atrocious imperialist past. “I never learned anything about it when I was [in] school. She wanted to know more about it and got the idea to do something with it on film.

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