Riding my Tiger

The filmmaker Ascan Breuer searches for the spirit of a tiger said to have haunted the house of his ancestors on Java. Locating this spirit is no easy matter, as it must be summoned in a respectful manner. A number of stories have grown up about it, personified as the family´s grandfather, as the ghost of an old man who resides in the garden and finishes off thieves and poor craftsmen. It also recalls the resistance against Dutch colonialism and the conflicts that played out during the Cold War.
This search combines an autobiographical narrative thread involving the history of the filmmaker´s family and a historical narrative about migration that spans the globe. But before you know it, the spirit materializes, observes the filmmaker, energizes the story´s images, and affects the present. In the form of a shadow it flits through the garden and comments on the complex connections between past and present as a figure in a shadow theater.
Ascan Breuer is the protagonist, director and writer of Riding My Tiger. He and cameraman Victor Jaschke, the Documentary Laboratory duo, tell the story of Breuer´s Javanese-Chinese family and give it a universal character. At the same time they make light of the search for identity, in truth an arrogant form of intrusion, which has its own history in the genre of ethnographic documentary film. Breuer is less interested in working with the documentary material than a traditional style of mythical storytelling, producing what he terms “magical documentary film,” inspired by the literary genre of magical realism. The result is a hybrid, an improvised aesthetic. This casts the filmmaker´s visible figure in a dubious light, though as a film project it caricatures the cultural conflict with the aid of cultural means: wayang, Javanese shadow-puppet theater, a performance art going back thousands of years old that anticipated cinema´s technical apparatus. Together with Tardjono Wignyopranoto, a dalang — the wayang´s master of ceremonies — Breuer reinterprets this art form for cinema.

(Marie-Hélène Gutberlet)

Translation: Steve Wilder

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Outstanding Artist Award 2015 / BKA Kunstsektion (Award)

"In der österreichischen Filmlandschaft stehen Ascan Breuers Arbeiten für eine formale und selbstkritische Weiterentwicklung der dokumentarischen Form. Seine Filme produziert er als Dokumentarisches Labor – und "Labor" ist hier programmatisch gemeint: das handwerklich versierte, filmisch lustvoll-neugierige Experimentieren mit unterschiedlichen dokumentarischen Herangehensweisen zeichnen seine Filme aus. Die Themen der Flucht, Migration, der Suche nach Identität, der Selbstermächtigung unterpriviligierter Menschen und des Hinterfragens von Exotismus kehren in all seinen Filmen wieder. Zugleich hinterfragt er seine eigene, durchaus auch widersprüchliche Rolle als Filmemacher und die Bedeutung von Wahrhaftigkeit im Dokumentarfilm. Was wir an seinen Filmen besonders schätzen, ist die Fähigkeit des Filmemachers, unterschiedliche filmästhetische Mittel souverän einzusetzen und immer selbstreflexiv die Grenzen des Dokumentarischen auszuloten. […]
In RIDING MY TIGER erforscht der Filmemachers seine indonesisch-chinesischen Familiengeschichte, die mit der Kolonialgeschichte und den politischen Gräueltaten der jüngeren Vergangenheit Indonesiens verknüpft wird. Der Tigergeist, der im Haus seines Großvaters auf Java leben soll und der die sehnsuchtsvolle Suche des Regisseurs auslöste, verwandelt sich im Laufe des Films in die (mythische) Stimme der Vergangenheit und wirft mithilfe des javanischen Schattentheaters Wayang – für den Film durch einen Wayang-Meister auf kunstvolle Weise neu interpretiert – einen Blick auf die Verstrickungen von Gegenwart und Vergangenheit, von westlicher und östlicher Welt. Dem Film gelingt wunderbar, die unterschiedlichen Ebenen von Mythos, Magie und Faktizität zusammenzufügen und daraus eine Welt voller Poesie zu erschaffen" (Laudation der Jury)

Festival dei Popoli, Florence/IT 2014

"The story of Ascan Breuer´s physical/psychic journey to track down the origins of his family. He is a young German citizen exploring the island of Java along with its culture, traditions and ghosts. The beginning of the film, reminiscent of an intimate diary, soon gives way to a competely different mood. The journey becomes research. The research turns into investigation. Tracks become clues to be deciphered. First-hand accounts are testemonies to be pieced together, like scattered fragments of an uncertain story that is full of gaps. This documentary offers two elements that are usually alien to the genre: suspense and preternatural. Therefore, the viewers are plunged in a film that is also an actual paranormal thriller. Psychological and ethno-anthropological materials are rewritten according to the forms of cinematic narration of mise-en-scéne. Therefore, emotion (pathos) becomes style and culture becomes a (ghostly) character."
(55 Festival dei Popoli, Int. Doc. Film Festival Florence, 28.11.–5.12.2014)
Orig. Title
Riding my Tiger
Year
2014
Countries
Austria, Indonesia
Duration
40 min
Director
Ascan Breuer
Category
Documentary, Essay
Orig. Language
german, javanese
Subtitles
english
Downloads
Riding my Tiger (Image)
Filmstill (Image)
Credits
Director
Ascan Breuer
Script
Ascan Breuer
Cinematography
Victor Jaschke, Peter C. Beyer
Camera Assistant
Maruli Sihombing
Music
Roumen Dimitrov
Editing
Ascan Breuer
Sound Design
Roumen Dimitrov
Dramatic Advice
Mara Mattuschka
Actor/Actress
Tardjono Wignyopranoto, Ascan Breuer
Production
Ascan Breuer
Assistant Director
Bustanul Arifin
Available Formats
DCP 2K flat (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
1:1,85
Sound Format
Dolby 5.1.
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
colour
Digital File (prores, h264) (Distribution Copy)
Festivals (Selection)
2014
Graz - Diagonale, Festival des österreichischen Films
Nyon - visions du réel - Festival Int. du Cinéma Documentaire
Duisburg - Duisburger Filmwoche
Kassel - Dokumentarfilm- & Videofest
Firenze - Festival dei Popoli
Yogyakarta Int. Film Festival
2015
Hamburg - Dokumentarfilmwoche
Münster - Int. Filmfestival
2016
Wien - Ethnocineca Documentary Film Festival