Dancing Village: The Curse Begins director Kimo Stamboel walks us through the making of the prequel (Interview)

Dancing Village: The Curse Begins (Badarawuhi Di Desa Penari) is a prequel to the biggest-selling Indonesian film of all time which has just recently hit US theaters.
Los Angeles Special Screening Of Liongate's "Badarawuhi di Desa Penari"
Los Angeles Special Screening Of Liongate's "Badarawuhi di Desa Penari" / Paul Archuleta/GettyImages

We were fortunate enough to sit down with with Kimo Stamboel, director of Dancing Village: The Curse Begins (International title: Badarawuhi Di Desa Penari), which has recently hit US theaters, distributed by Lionsgate. A prequel to the biggest-selling Indonesian film of all time, KKN di Desa Penari, the film Dancing Village: The Curse Begins is a spine-chilling horror set to captivate audiences with its mysterious tale and eerie atmosphere.

Written by Lele Laila, the film features a haunting narrative centered around Mila (Maudy Effrosina), who embarks on a journey to return a mystical bracelet to the remote "Dancing Village" on Java Island's easternmost tip.

Also starring a talented ensemble cast, the story unfolds as Mila, accompanied by her cousin Yuda (Jourdy Pranata) and friends, encounters a series of strange events in the absence of the village guardian, Mbah Buyut (Diding Boneng). As they delve deeper into the village's secrets, they confront Badarawuhi (Aulia Sarah), a mythical being who holds sway over the village.

Photo 1- DANCING VILLAGE_ THE CURSE BEGINS (Credit_ Lionsgate)
DANCING VILLAGE: The Curse Begins /

With stunning cinematography by Patrick Tashadian and a haunting score by Ricky Leonard, Dancing Village: The Curse Begins promises to immerse audiences in a world of suspense and supernatural intrigue. Also, the Jakarta Post predicts it will do more to put Indonesian horror on the international map.

Interview with Dancing Village: The Curse Begins director Kimo Stamboel

1428 ELM: So, what inspired you to create a prequel for KKN di Desa Penari? How did you approach ensuring continuity while crafting a unique story for Dancing Village: The Curse Begins?

KIMO STAMBOEL: Well, first of all, I worked with the original author on the film. There are a lot of stories that he [wants] to tell, and I think the producer picked the final one of these stories and decided. This is a prequel, not a sequel for the first one. The story for me is very interesting because it's set in a different timeline from the original.

My big challenge was to make things work visually...because sometimes if you go a little bit back in time, you need more detail in the story and the visual design. That makes for an interesting prequel, it's a different story and more of a spin-off.

Only a few characters from the original are in this prequel. And we approached this very carefully because we wanted the first film's fans to watch this film too. And I think one of the biggest draws for viewers is the deeper storylines for the entity. We thought, "OK, this is going be interesting
and the story is sort of different, focusing on the mother and daughter story more and technically, shooting in IMAX. This will hopefully attract an international audience with a more universal story."

DANCING VILLAGE: The Curse Begins /

The challenges of filming for IMAX

1428 ELM: So that actually was going to be my next question. Am I correct that Dancing Village: The Curse Begins is Southeast Asia's first IMAX production?


1428 ELM: What were the challenges presented by that format? And how did it influence your directorial decisions, or did it at all?

KIMO STAMBOEL: Well, it's quite a big challenge with the specs and technical requirements. We needed to be much more detailed in framing and in the back of my mind, if the story is going to be told in a larger format, then you need to be more precise in every way.

Also, we needed to use the full capacity of IMAX to immerse the audience in the story. The sound design needed to be more detailed to make the audience feel that they are there in the world of the film. It's a bit of a challenge, not just technically, but also the way you tell the story, and finally the way the camera moves.

When it is screened in IMAX format, it feels a little bit different than a regular theatrical experience. And if we have those elements and we don't take it seriously, it will not be using the format to the maximum.

1428 ELM: It reminds me of a 3D format. Sometimes you can watch movies in 3D and they have these deliberate scenes where they...have something [in the viewer's face]. Were you trying to avoid that at all? Like making it too obvious?

KIMO STAMBOEL: Yes, we did not want to make obvious moves, but we sort of fine-tuned the film to make it more IMAX compatible, more emotional and sensory, and with strong elements of horror and mysticism.

Photo 6- DANCING VILLAGE_ THE CURSE BEGINS (Credit_ Lionsgate)
DANCING VILLAGE: The Curse Begins /

The universalizing content in Dancing Village: The Curse Begins

1428 ELM: So how did you balance those aspects to create an engaging narrative that appeals to both local and international audiences?...There's the Indonesian audience and then there's the wider global audience.

KIMO STAMBOEL: I think the horror element and the mother-daughter story will capture audiences internationally. Horror is a universal language, right? Audiences can get scared for many reasons, the demonic characters or just not knowing what's going to happen next, the fear of the unknown.

You know, I think that's the beauty of the horror genre, people universally accept it and [are entertained] by it. And we worked hard to balance the story with more culturally specific, traditional stuff that we have to explain in more detail.

1428 ELM: And how do you explain some things that are probably unexplainable?

KIMO STAMBOEL: You know, yeah, that's sort of a balance between the visual elements of the film and the script which is vital.

1428 ELM: So could you elaborate on the cultural significance of the bracelet and its role in the story?

KIMO STAMBOEL: In many Indonesian cultures, women wear this type of bracelet. But the bracelet itself in this movie is, it's not culturally connected to [any specific] culture or history; we designed it ourselves. It helps confirm the identity of a woman wearing a bracelet on each arm. And if one is missing, the lore is, it indicates a little bit of bad luck. So, yeah, they needed to be balanced.

DANCING VILLAGE: The Curse Begins /

From R-rated to PG

1428 ELM: Could you tell me a little bit more about the creative process of this movie, in terms of production, scale, and vision?

KIMO STAMBOEL: We worked with the author in designing the story. I wasn't involved until the fifth draft of the script and from there we decided the basic story was already in place and we needed to add horror elements that are my personal style as a director. The story is rooted in Indonesian culture but with my artistic stamp on it.


1428 ELM: And so what can you tell me about the main bad guy in this character?...Sorry, the main villain in Dancing Village: The Curse Begins?

KIMO STAMBOEL: Oh, Badarawuhi? The character, at least as it's depicted in this movie, was the first film, but...we tried to make her much darker. I wanted her character to be darker and more sinister for the horror fans. 

What interests me, is she doesn't harm you physically, but she lures and seduces you to make you feel extremely uncomfortable and unbalanced. Once you say yes to her request you are trapped for life, dancing for eternity with her. She is a very cool villain.

We'd like to thank Kimo Stamboel for taking the time to answer these questions and thank you so much for reading! Again, this film has currently opened in theaters, courtesy of Lionsgate, who are also working with Blumhouse on a reimagining of the Blair Witch Project. You can watch the trailer for Dancing Village: The Curse Begins below:

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