The Ring Of Fire screening at the Oriental Theater in Legian Bali

Bali has a developed expat-scene centered predominantly in Seminyak and Sanur, both on the south coast.

Living here I end up going to places frequented by expats such as Cafe Moka and Ade Rais Hammerhead gym. Last night I went to a gathering of expats at a place called the Oriental theater in Seminyak for a screening of Ring Of Fire the acclaimed documentary about travels in Indonesia by Lawrence and Lorne Blair.

The Oriental is an old looking theater located down Jl. Sri Rama off of Jl. Nakula, opposite Jl. Double Six. I had never been there before but my friend Mike Hillis was in town along with my other friend Chimene. They had never met before even though had led seemingly parallel lives (both attended UCSB at the same time in the 80s, both taught English in Asia, both started coming to Indonesia and started exporting arts and crafts). Mike is a cultural anthropology expert and suggested we attend the film show.

Riding over there we were able to park in the alley next door and purchase ticket on the spot. This definitely was not a tourist event and I could see the crusty expat upper echelons turning out for the event. One of the highlights was the attendance of filmmaker Lawrence Blair, now aged around 60.

The Blairs were a couple of British brothers who after leaving university read a book by naturalist Alfred Wallace. Part of his life was spent in the Malay Archipelago and he documented 130,000 new plant and animal species while there. He also provided a theory similar to Darwins ideas on evolution.

The Blairs were captivated and decided to make a documentary film about their travels in the outer reaches of the archipelago, Lorne being the cameraman and Lawrence the narrator and often the subject. They traveled in Indonesia for 10 years and finally settled in Bali. Lorne Blair died several years ago after falling down a man-hole in Ubud.




The Oriental has a bar at the back and chairs are set up for each event, wicker type ones at the back and circular tables with chairs at the front. We all sat at a table and ordered a drink each. A small Bintang was 10,000rp and a German beer 28,000rp.

We saw 2 parts of Ring Of Fire, the first lasting around 45 minutes on the Blairs arrival in Singapore in the 1960s and their journey to the eastern islands of Komodo and Irian Jaya aboard a pirate vessel. After the intermission we saw their first trip to Bali in the early 1970s. The Blairs avoided Bali because of its reputation as a tourist destination but were immediately captivated after observing the daily ceremonies and processions. Lawrence said that after visiting many of the more primitive islands he was amazed at how the natural landscape (rice terraces etc. ) and the people seemed to interact effortlessly in Bali.

They subsequently built a house in the Ubud area.

Ring Of Fire has been shown in 90 different countries but this was the first screening inside Indonesia. Lawrence alluded to some of the content and points of view being too close for comfort for some people in positions of authority. The film is a splendid work and anyone who has harbored a desire for adventure should see it. The Blairs invest time and effort, not to mention a good dose of discomfort to access the places they dared to go. Chimene told me she found it really inspirational and after living for 5 years in the jungle of Bukit Lawang felt like she had not done much traveling at all compared to the Blairs.

Some of the daring deeds these guys did was snorkel off the pirate ship in uncharted waters, Lawrence unknowingly showing off a Blue Ringed octopus rolling around in his palm (a bite could kill him in minutes). The brothers also went naked with a tribe of cannibals in Irian Jaya, the same exact tribal village that had eaten Michael C. Rockefeller some years before, leaving before day break after getting bad vibes from the locals.

These guys had a real open attitude and that is why their interactions and adventures were rewarding.

Further screening of Ring Of Fire are coming in the coming weeks which I intend to see. The Oriental is a little hub of culture in itself and has a weekly movie night on Tuesdays. Chimene commented that a distinct benchong (tranvestite) element seemed to attach itself to the Oriental and I later found out that female impersonator shows are on 5 nights a week. Wed-Sun, 8.30pm. Tel: 756-604.

Speaking with Mikes wife Priska I learned more about what was the norm for weddings as far as my contribution. I had been led to believe almost everything was down to me, but low and behold it seems things are quite the opposite. What a relief!

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