A compilation of clips from documentaries and propaganda films shot by Dutch cameramen between 1912 and 1932 in their former colony of Indonesia. The film contrasts the lives of wealthy colonial rulers, who delve out orders while clad in immaculately white outfits, with the hopeless situation of the native people, who are victims of a brutal economic exploitation.
Much of the footage used to be shown in the Netherlands as an illustration of the beneficial effect of the Dutch presence, but nowadays it merely evokes negative associations. Apart from images of economic repression, Moeder Dao, the Turtlelike contains archive footage that details the cultural and religious expressions of the indigenous people.
The original footage had no soundtrack, but filmmaker Vincent Monnikendam has added natural sounds from Indonesia, indigenous music and recited poetry, but no voice-over. The film’s title refers to a mythical story that, according to the inhabitants of the island of Nias, situated to the west of Sumatra, explains the origin of creation.