They Call Me Babu

Category: documentary
Director: Sandra Beerends
Producer: Pieter van Huystee
Country: The Netherlands
Year: 2019
Length: 78'
Production Status: completed


An Indonesian nanny tells her remarkable life story, which plays out against the backdrop of World War II and her country's struggle for independence.
As a young woman, Alima flees to the city to avoid an arranged marriage. She finds a job as a nanny, or 'babu', for a Dutch family who are about to leave on a trip to Holland. As conflict descends across the globe, Alima returns to the Dutch colony, surviving Japanese occupation and her homeland's battle for liberation, before finding her own place in the world.
Sandra Beerends uses never-before-seen archive footage to construct Alima's partly fictionalised story, based on the lives of several Indonesian nannies of the era. The lyrical images of colonial society are hauntingly present, and Alima's alienation is palpable. Her gradual understanding of colonial society and her own position, exquisitely narrated, tells a universal story of women's empowerment.

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Czech Film Center

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Andrea Dittler