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The Bali Times
The maker of a documentary about the goings-on between Indonesian men and foreign women holidaying in Bali is to be summoned to the island via Interpol, Bali Police said.
Director Amit Virmani, who lives in Singapore, neither had a permit to work in Indonesia when he made the film nor required permission to film in the country, violations that could see him jailed for up to a year and fined, police have said.
Bali Police spokesman Gede Sugianyar said late on Friday: “Amit can be charged with violating Law No 8/1992 on Filming and be sentenced to a maximum jail term of one year and a fine of Rp40 million (US$4,430) in lieu of an additional one year in prison.”
The documentary, Cowboys in Paradise, has already seen authorities round up dozens of local men on Bali’s famous Kuta Beach, suspected of being gigolos and harming the island’s important tourism industry.
The men have since been released, after police said they could not prove they were involved in soliciting sex from tourists.
Governor I Made Mangku Pastika said he feared the documentary, segments of which have been uploaded to YouTube, would damage Bali’s global reputation as a place of innate spirituality and natural beauty.
Sugianyar said that as part of Bali Police’s probe into Virmani, six people involved in the film had been questioned and that police were certain the director had broken Indonesia’s laws.
“We have begun coordinating with the National Police Headquarters (in Jakarta) to have Amit summoned for questioning here,” he said.
He added that the lack of an extradition treaty with Singapore might present difficulties in having the director brought to Bali but that Bali Police were not put off.
“This possible hurdle does not prevent us from building our case against the film director,” he said.
“Cowboys In Paradise` sparks uproar in “island of gods”
“Cowboys In Paradise”, a documentary film by Singapore-domiciled ethnic Indian director Amit Virmani depicting the life of so-called gigolos at Bali`s Kuta beach has drawn the ire of local authorities and community members in Indonesia`s most renowned tourist destination.
As a tourist resort province with local beaches, arts and dances well-known to the world, Bali has become one of the world`s most attractive places for international events, holidaying and film making such as the movie “Eat, Pray and Love” by Ryan Murphy in which Hollywood movie actress Julia Roberts starred.
With its beautiful beaches, Bali has been successful in developing its tourism industry while preserving its image as “the island of gods” , a name befitting the population`s high religiosity and spirituality.
While being an international retreat, Bali keeps on maintaining its image so that it would not be tarnished by the immorality aspect of the tourism industry where free sex behavior can thrive. The term “3S” or “Sun, Sea, and Sex” should never take place in the island of gods.
It is in this sense that the “Cowboys In Paradise” whose plot depicts immorality by young men at Kuat beach, draws angry reactions from local authorities and community members.
Controversies over the “Cowboys In Paradise” film have heretofore come up to the surface. No less then Bali Governor Made Pastika has expressed concern over the circulation of the film.
Pastika said the production process and plot of the film which told the life of local young surfers as gigolos at Bali`s Kuta beach could tarnish the image of Bali`s tourism. After all, controversies are arising about the documentary film as if it had even served as a free “advertisement” for the movie.
The public can easily obtain the movie trailer by down loading it at the “youtube.com” internet. Luckily, the full story in the film could not be down-loaded from Youtub.com.
In order to deal with the documentary film, the Indonesian police are now investigating it whether it has violated the law. The Bali police are now to summon Amit Virmani, the maker of the “Cowboys in Paradise” who resides in Singapore, with the help of Interpol.
“We are going to do so after all the witnesses we have questioned and the evidence we have collected show Amit`s involvement in punishable acts,” Bali police spokesman Sr Com Gde Sugianyar Dwi Putra said on Friday.
Police have questioned six witnesses and their statements as well as the available evidence have led to the conclusion Amit have violated Indonesian laws in making the controversial documentary.
Amit can be charged with violating Law No 8/1992 on Film and be sentenced to a maximum jail term of one year and a fine of Rp40 million in lieu of an additional one year behind bars, Sugianyar said.
But as Amit is now in residing in Singapore, the Bali police would summon him through the Criminal Investigation Department of the National Police Headquarters which had a permanent link with Interpol.
Sugianyar said Amit`s film which purported to depict the life of local young men as gigolos at Bali`s Kuta beach had drawn angry reactions from Bali`s authorities and community members as it was considered damaging the resort island`s image as respectable tourist destination.
Tourism operator I Ketut Suardhana in Ubud, Gianyar district, is among the six witnesses who have been questioned by police. According to Suardhana, he did not know if his interview with Amit was to be put in a film. The interview was about the HIV/AIDS development in Bali.
“I am disappointed with the interview because it is included in the film which has sparked uproars in Bali,” Suardhana, who claimed to have served as a mere resource person on HIV/AIDS during the interview at his own home, said.
Police have questioned at least five local young men suspected to be actors of the film, namely Rosnan Efendik alias Fendi, Sugiarto alias Argo, Suwarno alias Arnold, Dennis Putra and Bima.
Based on their accounts, they were not informed if they were to play for a documentary film. Rather, they plaid for a private collection of Amit.
“I was only asked to play surfing and was paid Rp150,000. I am disappointed because I did not know if the picture was for a film. The crew who took our pictures said it was for a private collection,” Dennis told police.
The local actors said they were directed by Amit Virmani who acted as director and producer of the film which was taken at Kuta beach, Bali, in mid 2007. They were told the film was for Amit`s private collection.
“Amit Virmani did not tell us if the pictures were taken for a documentary film but for a private collection,” Arnold, one of the actors, who plaid the gigolo character in the “Cowboys In Paradise” film, said.
Eco-tourism expert Ricky Avenzora of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture said the “Cowboy In Pradise” film was a slap not only in the face of the Bali tourism but also in the face of national tourism as a whole.
Therefore, all of the country`s tourism stakeholders, he said, should be able to find strategic and tactical steps to counter the negative image created by the gigolo film, despite the fact that Indonesia`s tourism could not yet be built on the basis of the country`s five philosophical tenets.
“As a country which is based on the belief in God tenet, Indonesia should not allow the `3S` term to take place in its tourism industry,” Avenzora said.