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Kawitan: Creating Childhood in Bali
This informative and compelling documentary systematically examines the key Balinese early-life ceremonies at every social level in South Bali. Through ceremonies, Balinese culture and performance are linked, with specific musical expression as a common characteristic. The focus of the film is both ethnographic and ethnomusicological as it explores the relationship between Balinese music, movement, ritual, and identity.
To illustrate the centrality of performance to Balinese belief and ritual, the film opens with a compact prologue in "wayang" (shadow-play) and sacred song, recounting the creation of the universe, the five elements, and the first humans. In the first early-life ceremony, a pregnant woman bathes where sacred springs meet. This provides for a safe delivery, and associated ceremonies transform sexual energies into parental devotion.
The film shows daily offerings to spirits surrounding a newborn, and depicts in detail the protective calendrical ceremonies: past-life debts are released in a holy-water purification at six weeks; a first step on the earth is celebrated at three Balinese months; a first haircut and naming ceremony take place at one Balinese year; and an elaborate ceremony to strengthen the spirit guardians is held on a child's third Balinese birthday. The symbolism and significance of the ceremonies are explained by the distinguished priests who actually officiate.
In addition, the film affords a rare view of a family consulting a traditional psychic channeler to learn which ancestor has reincarnated in a newborn child, and follows a six-year-old as he commits to serious music study. Renowned musician I Wayan Suweca comments on the intergenerational transmission of artistic power ("taksu") in Balinese life.
Kawitan is the first film (see also Kahyangan: The Balinese Journey of the Soul) in a projected cycle of documentaries portraying the seven life ceremonies and seven after-life ceremonies in Balinese Hindu-Buddhist religion and culture. The film is a collaboration between ethnomusicologist Linda Burman-Hall and director Eli Hollander, both of University of California Santa Cruz. It will stimulate thought and discussion in a variety of courses in Asian and Balinese studies, cultural anthropology, ethnomusicology, and religion.
"This marvelous film would be great for classroom use. It provides a privileged glimpse of intimate Balinese life, through the lens of a sensitive camera and the ear of a talented ethnomusicologist. More than an accurate report, it is an evocative portrayal of what Balinese consider the most important events in the growth of a new human being, rituals enacted for their protection and well-being. Presented almost entirely in the voices and words of Balinese themselves, the film brings the viewer right into the midst of family life. In the brilliant immediacy of the symbols and performances, the viewer might not notice that the film is also a marvelous concert of Balinese music of the sort rarely heard in concert halls -- the gamelan compositions and sacred songs that accompany rituals, special shadow plays, and even a children's song." -- Hildred Geertz, Prof. of Anthropology (Emeritus), Princeton Univ., author, Images of Power: Balinese Paintings Made for Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead; co-author, Kinship in Bali; editor, State and Society in Bali
"I was very much taken by this documentary. It contains beautifully filmed and thorough footage -- the most complete I have ever seen -- of critical Balinese life-cycle ceremonies, and, best of all, sensitive and reliable translations of nearly everything that was said. The whole thing was most impressive and I would certainly want my university to have a copy that I could use in teaching." -- Michael Tenzer, Prof. of Music, Univ. of British Columbia, author, Balinese Music
"A classic documentary. Through evocative images and a resonant soundtrack, rituals of pregnancy, birth, and childhood are made extraordinarily present to us. The camera tactfully participates, up-close, in a range of family occasions, recording many luminous gestures and listening to Balinese describe what they are up to. The rituals are explained without effacing their intimate, everyday mystery." -- Prof. James Clifford, History of Consciousness Dept., Univ. of California, Santa Cruz, author, The Predicament of Culture
- Assn. for Asian Studies honoree
- Society for Visual Anthropology selection
- American Anthropological Assn. selection
- Society for Ethnomusicology honoree
- Intl. Society for Music Educators honoree