Movies about Bali, Indonesia

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Indonesian movies to watch before your trip to Bali

In preparation for a trip to a region or country, I like to immerse myself in the visual pictures through movies and documentaries.

Life most, I fell in love with images of Bali through the movie Eat, Pray, Love. In 2017, I had my first chance to visit this island paradise. Despite many storms circling my life at the time, this island was just as described and brought a sense of peace through the kindness of the Balinese people, the unique culture, and a slower pace of life. The island has made a lasting impact on me. 

On subsequent trips, I have traveled outside the normal tourist areas and experienced more of the old way of life that still exists through Balinese rituals in small towns and the signs of Dutch colonial rule.  It’s truly fascinating.

Following are my choice for movies filmed in Bali and documentaries about Bali and Indonesia. These celebrate the Balinese culture and provide more insight into its complex history both from family native structures and Dutch colonial rule.

Eat, Pray, Love (both the book and movie) have become a worldwide sensation and likely needs no introduction as it has that launched many women’s trip to Bali and solo travel in general.  On a recent trip to Bali, I overheard 3 different conversations in a restaurant mentioning this book as inspiration for their trips – both culturally and as a spiritual journey.

Gilbert’s novel follows her year long journey to Italy (Eat), India (Pray), and Bali (Love) as she takes a year for self-examination and immerses herself in each culture to spark magic and joy back in her life.  The book and movie both highlight the beauty of Bali and especially Ubud as she bikes through rice fields, explores the markets and visits healers.

Regardless of your thoughts on the movie or lifestyle, this book has sparked millions of people and especially women to examine their lives and dare to dream.

This French movie called “All the beauty of the world” was shot in Indonesia in Bali & Lombok. A French Woman, Tina, travels to Bali after her husband’s death. During her stay, she befriends a French gentleman who becomes her travel guide, friend and more. Who wouldn’t fall in love taking in all these beautiful spots in Indonesia?

Bali locations include Kutah Beach, Legian, Seminyak, Ubud, the rice terraces of Jatiluwih, Mount Batukaru, and Tanah Lot.

Endless Summer II is the follow-up to Bruce Brown’s 1966 surfing documentary. The filmmakers and surfer dudes, Robert ‘Wingnut’ Weaver (whom I met in Santa Cruz in 2016) and Patrick O’Connell return after almost three decades to surf the wonderful waves of exotic spots around the world filmed in the first film, which includes Bali at some point around the last third length of the film.

In the Bali part of their tour, the surfing is interlaced with scenes of the gorgeous landscapes, rice paddies, culture and colorful ceremonies, gamelan music, rural village scenes, Tanah Lot Temple, and Uluwatu Temple that overlooks one of the island’s best surf spots, Kuta Beach.

Set in 1915, a stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is hospitalized after a filming accident when he meets a young girl recovering from a broken arm.  The two form a friendship as he tells her a fantastical tale that is visually depicted throughout the movie, with locations shot in exotic places around the world.

The Fall includes scenes in Bali –  Tegallalang rice terraces and the Gunung Kawi temple in Tampaksiring with a Kecak dance performed in front of it.

Alex Cross is an action film based on the novel I, Alex Cross by James Patterson. The film starring Tyler Perry was unfortunately a box office bomb, but has beautiful scenes in Bali. The story is about a ‘wild goose chase’ between Detroit lieutenant Alex Cross and a ruthless fugitive who murdered his wife, which leads to a manhunt in Bali.  Consider this also your warning of possession and distribution of drugs which are punishable by death according to Indonesian law.

Bali locations include the coast near Jasri village in Karangasem, East Bali and many locals were cast in this film.

Available on YouTube

6

Bali: Heaven and Hell (2014)

As the title suggests, this documentary shows the two sides of Bali from its transformation from a peasant Dutch colony to a tourist mecca.  Heaven highlights the stunning landscapes and the Balinese culture, past and present, that everyone falls in love with. The documentary also contrasts this with the darker side of this country including scenes from the 2002 bombings. 

This documentary is based on the book by Phil Jarratt.

7

The More Things Change (2017)

This documentary featuring American surfer, journalist, and actor Gerry Lopez, focuses on one of Bali’s most popular surfing destinations, Uluwatu. In 1974, Hawaiian Gerry Lopez first visited Bali and fell in love as he surfed the Bali waves.  In collaboration with local NGO Project Clean Uluwatu, Lopez returns to the same spots 40 years later.  

The documentary highlights plans to improve the local community and provides some important context and conservation concerns.

8

Bali Is My Life (2012)

This 10 minute documentary film is an insider’s guide to Bali’s best scenes, from picturesque scenery, to temple ceremonies. Produced by the people of Bali is highlights a culture motivated by respect and care for the island’s culture and ecosystems.

9

Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey (1999)

The five-part documentary goes beyond Bali and captures many of the islands on the Indonesian archipelago. Funded by the BBC and Ringo Starr, two brothers, Lorne and Lawrence Blair, immersed themselves in the Indonesian culture for over a decade starting in 1972 and documented their insights on these beautiful islands including Komodo islands, Aru and New Guinea, the Celebes, and finally in Bali where they built a home up in Ubud.

Bali scenes include traditional boats on the coast of Sanur, rituals in southern Bali, Mount Agung and Besakih temple in Karangasem, and many experiences in rural Bali.

10

Legong, Dance of the Virgins (1935)

This silent film features an all-Balinese cast living their lives in the village with dance performances and music. The film has a fictional script of a love triangle between a gamelan player and two Legong dance sisters. This film is most importantly a glimpse into the traditional way of Balinese life from a time long gone including temple rituals.

11

Goona Goona or ‘The Kriss’ (1932)

Goona Goona or ‘The Kriss’ refers to the name of an aphrodisiacal magical love potion that is common amongst Indonesian cultures, including Bali, and serves as the premise of this melodrama.  Filmmakers Andre Roosevelt and Armand Denis, envision a  plot around a love triangle between a Balinese prince, a commoner and a slave girl.  It’s an oldie in black & white and the appeal is really in getting another glimpse of Bali culture almost 100 years ago – life in traditional villages, days at the market, temple processions, and Balinese nobles.

Looking for a Travel Guide Book about Bali, Indonesia?

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