DER Documentary

Releasing the Spirits: A Village Cremation in Bali


From the Jero Tapakan Film Series
by Linda Connor, Patsy Asch, and Timothy Asch
color, 43 min, 1979




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Cremation rites are the most elaborate rites of passage performed by Balinese householders. Poor families may wait years before accumulating enough resources to cremate their dead, who are buried in the meantime. In 1978 many more cremations than usual were carried out because of the great purification cermony, Eka Dasa Rudra, held at Bali's main temple, Besakih, in 1979. Religious officials recommended that all Balinese cleanse the island by cremating their dead, as part of the preparations for the great Besakih ceremony.

Villagers of limited means pooled their resources to perform group cremations which greatly reduced the cost for each family. This film is about a group of villagers in Central Bali who cooperated to carry out a group cremation. The film shows the way they approached this task, as well as the cycle of rituals: the cremation, post-cremation, and casting of ashes into the ocean. It had been 15 years since they last held this ceremony. Most of the narration is provided by four participants, recorded as they were watching videotapes of the ceremonies two years later. Each brings a different perspective to the events documented on the film. The three voices of the filmmakers also provide different insights. This film is linked to the previous films on Bali because it, too, deals with ritual and possession. Furthermore, the cremation is held in Jero Tapakan's hamlet and she is a central participant.


other films in the Jero Tapakan series:
A Balinese Trance Seance w/Jero on Jero: A Balinese Trance Seance Observed
The Medium is the Masseuse & Jero Tapakan: Stories from the Life of a Balinese Healer

Related Films
Balinese Requiem
Ngaben: Emotion & Restraint in a Balinese Heart



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