The Water of Words: A Cultural Ecology of an Eastern Indonesian Island
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by James Fox, Timothy Asch, and Patsy Asch
Produced by Australian National University and D.E.R.
Indonesian language version also available
color, 30 min, 1983
Non-profit and K-12 pricing also available
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"Everyone admires Roti," smiles Mias Kiuk, the clan elder. "Though we drink lontar juice, our brains are like gold!"
This film explores the poetry and ecology of the lontar (borassus) palm on the eastern Indonesian island of Roti. Anthropologist James J. Fox collaborated with the filmmakers to produce an account of the utilization of lontar, a tree that provides the mainstay of the Rotinese diet. Techniques of tapping and cooking the palm juice and its transformation into syrup, beer, and gin ("the water of words") are shown. The film integrates striking visual imagery with the clan leader's description, the paired poetic speech of ritual specialists, and myths that recount the origin of the lontar from the sea.