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Film Review: Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash (Die Rache Ist Mein; Alle Anderen Zahlen Bar)
by Becky Tan

Edwin, Indonesia|Germany|Singapore 2021

Ajo Kawir (Marthino Lio) is a master of hand-to-hand fighting, the perfect picture of tough masculinity: pushing, succeeding,winning. But this talent has little value if one knows his secret: he fails to have an erection; he is impotent. Girls who fall for him must be discouraged. He meets his equal in fist fighting: a young girl named Iteung (Ladya Cheryl) who works as a bodyguard. This mutual interest leads to love, and, although Ajo cannot compete in the equally important area of sex, Iteung wishes for them to become a couple, and convinces him to marry her. They have the common interest of forcefully eliminating members of rival gangs. Three months later Iteung is pregnant, but who is the father? Ajo is furious and leaves her. Fast forward, three years later: Ajo has been sentenced to jail for murder, but still hasn’t managed to eliminate Macan, whom Iteung wishes dead. What about the baby?

Director Edwin based his film on a book by Eka Kurniawan, who also contributed to the film script. It takes place in 1989 in Bojong Nangka, Jawa Barat, southwest of Jakarta. At that time Suharto was the dictator, infamous for massacres, violence, and force. Director Edwin said that his film reflects the films of the 1980s-90s, where violence and revenge were still deeply ingrained in the Indonesian culture. For him it is nostalgic, reminiscent of the films he grew up with, but it still remains his own personal interpretation. He said it is supposed to be fun.

I was especially interested in an Indonesian film because my husband was born and raised in Indonesia. For the film there were many Chinese and Indonesians in the audience. There was a Q & A in English, but afterwards, Edwin met with enthusiastic viewers outside the cinema to speak to them in Indonesian. The film was partly produced in Hamburg with the assistance of film director Fatih Akin; the final mix occurred in Studio Hamburg. Edwin is no stranger to Germany, having shown films in the 2012 Berlinale and in the 2015 Hamburg Short Film Festival. VENGEANCE IS MINE, ALL OTHERS PAY CASH showed at the 2021 Locarno Film Festival, where it won best film.