What was it like to live in Netherlands-Indies as a mixed race child during the Japanese occupation? Did they have a nice life just when the Dutch ruled the colony, or did they suffer just like the indigenous people? “Buitenkampers” might be perfect if you want to start learning the history of Indo-Dutch people.
Background story for you who don’t know what Indo-Dutch/Indisch people are: Indo is a political term used by the government and society to address two types of people in Netherlands-Indies (now Indonesia): 1) People who were born from mixed Dutch and indigenous (pribumi) parents; and 2) Dutch people with 100% Dutch parents who were born in Netherlands-Indies.
Why is this movie called “Buitenkampers”? As I understood, when Japan troops built the internment camps, they focused on Blanda totok or Dutch people who were born in the Netherlands. They could see the status of the person through their registration card, something which was mandatory during the early days of Japanese occupation.
The Japanese troops wanted to give an impression to the pribumi people that they were going to free them from Western colonization. Therefore, they took a lot of Blanda totok to the camp, leaving only their pribumi/Indo parent and their Indo children behind. These Indo people got the chance to live outside the internment camps, but I guess they thought of themselves as camp members too, hence the title “Buitenkampers” (Outside Campers).
Watching this documentary gave me mixed feelings, a feeling I often feel upon reading/watching something about Indo-Dutch people. I empathize with their stories, because the pribumi felt it too, probably even worse. The interviewees, who were kids when the Japanese occupation started, told stories about how hard life had become for them. One had to catch frogs in paddy fields and sell them to restaurants just to get some money to buy foods, while others sold cakes made by their mothers.
However, as with most Indo-Dutch materials, there was one thing that triggered me. One interviewee said that when the Japanese came, the pribumi could get the privilege such as joining the army. What they didn’t know was that most of the times, the pribumi were taken away from their families to serve as Japanese troops. They didn’t know that this was the Japanese tactic to gain sympathy from the people, hence they allowed pribumi to join their army and banned the Dutch language to be spoken, encouraging people to speak Indonesian/Malay language instead. They wanted to be seen as the saviour from Western powers, while actually, they wanted to use Netherlands-Indies for their own cause: winning the World War 2 in Asia.
Other interviewee said that since Japanese troops came, the pribumi were brainwashed to hate the Dutch and they started acting like they owned the place. Ha, if only they knew that the pribumi had hated them even before the Japanese arrived. They just didn’t say it out loud because they were employed by Dutch families or because the country was a Dutch colony. I got the feeling that most of these interviewees came from privileged Indo families with pribumi personal assistants (babu and jongos) in their households. During the Japanese occupation, they couldn’t help but accept two truths: that they were no longer the privileged society and that the native people whom they believed to be uneducated, also hated them badly.
In conclusion, even though there were a few points that I disagreed with in the movie, I agree on one point: war only tore people apart and we were all victims of war, regardless of our race or economic status. I would give this documentary a solid 7.5 out of 10. Go watch it on Netflix if you have them in their list, or click here to watch it from NPO.