Ascan Breuer
Austria | 2014 | 40 min
Languages : Javanese, German
Subtitles : English, French

Ascan Breuer, born to a Chinese mother whose clan lived in Java, returns to the island of his ancestors to encounter the spirit of the tiger. His journey takes him to his grandparents’ house where a cousin still lives. It provides him with the setting for an initiation ceremony in which the ghosts of colonialism and the Indonesian civil war return to haunt him.  

Once upon a time, the spirit of a tiger protected a house on the island of Java. Ascan Breuer’s mother grew up here, before the war of independence against the Dutch colonialists at the end of World War II, then another war, a civil war this time, scattered this family of Chinese origin to the four winds. To find his Asian roots, Breuer begins an initiation journey to this ancestral home that a distant cousin continues to look after. The latter does not see this “spirit of a tiger” that the mother spoke of to the filmmaker, but an old man sometimes appears, near the mango tree in the inner courtyard... And what of this thief, who broke in one night, could not find his way out and slept there? A false ethnographic film, but a genuine identity quest that unfolds within the confines of Java’s vernacular beliefs and contemporary history, Riding My Tiger does not hesitate to slip into a hallucinatory phantasmagoria, when the filmmaker stages a shadow theatre show mixing grimacing puppets and film archives to evoke the fate of the mother’s side of the family – shared by the Indonesian Chinese minority, whose presence was literally wiped out in the mid-1960s.

Emmanuel Chicon
Ascan Breuer

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