Rare Bali Footage Premieres at Asian Art Museum


Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, California USA will show ‘The Beginning of Travel to Bali’ on 23 July as part of its extensive program Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance. This is the first in-depth exploration of Balinese performing arts at an American museum. The documentary is the result of a unique collaboration between the Bali Film Center and Nick Clark of Screen Archive South East at University of Brighton.

The project revolves around the only known pre-World War II color footage of Balinese traditional dance and documents the beginnings of travel to Bali and the effect Balinese Dance had on the early visitors.

Shot by Swedish Diplomat TH Wistrand (stationed in Tokyo, Japan 1936-39), this amazing 16mm Kodachrome color film (circa 1939) shows a fascinating glimpse into the true Bali that existed at the time. The Wistrand dance scenes are of great cultural importance in showing renowned teacher I Ketut Marya, considered the greatest Balinese dancer and choreographer of all time. t he recently discovered color footage of Bali material

The dance scenes in the Wistrand film are of great cultural importance in showing Balinese dance heritage in color. The teacher seen in the sequence is I Ketut Marya, considered the greatest Balinese dancer and choreographer of all time.
Balinese dance culture was first shown in the West at the Paris Colonial Exhibition of 1931 and subsequently promoted a cultural tourism that can be detected in the ‘western’ artist colonies of Bali in the 1930’s. Additionally, Bali was the setting for the last silent film ever produced in Hollywood with Henri de la Falaise’s Legong: Dance of the Virgins released by Paramount International in 1935. “Legong” and “Goona Goona” by Andre Roosevelt attracted people in the thousands to come to Bali including the elite of the show business, artistic and academic world.

Pioneering anthropologists Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and Jane Belo, silent screen star Charlie Chaplin, heiress Barbara Hutton, writer Noel Coward, Walter Spies the painter, Colin McPhee the musicologist and Antonin Artaud the famous theatre revolutionary, exemplify early enthusiasm of Balinese culture. The 1930’s Western visitor’s creative talents and fascination with the culture served to spread the worldwide interest in the region that people still come to see today.

The broader vision is the production of a full-length documentary that revolves around the complete Wistrand film documenting an extended journey through Japan, Korea, China, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia (Sumatra, Java and Bali).