South Sea

Riar Rizaldi


Genre : Documentary
Length: 80’
Project status: Development
Budget : 258 425 €
Acquired budget: 65 128 €
Funds : Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival (Winner Prize), Purin Pictures Production Grant 2024
Shooting country: Indonesia

Second Feature Film

In early 2022, tragedy occurred in Jember, Indonesia. Ten sect members were swept away by the waves on Payangan beach while performing a nocturnal ritual. The sect leader survived the incident, now confined in prison for manslaughter. The local government has since closed the beach and banned all ritual activities on the shore.
Victims’ families have recounted what they believe to have happened to their relatives that night and the preceding events. Scientific authorities claim that there is another possible cause; rising sea levels and coastal erosion on Payangan. In this film, both scientists and the victims’ families tell their stories, accompanied by reenactments of hypothetical events that occurred in the lead up to the tragedy.
These reenactments focus on the character of The Oceanographer, as he tries to reveal that the tragedy was not a mere accident. We follow one of the sect members, The Vocalist, a singer in a Javanese black metal band, before, during, and after the waves take his life.

Note of intention

During the fatal ritual, offerings are made to ancestors, requesting prosperity, escape from the mundane conditions of poverty. This reflects how these rituals are embedded in the contemporary daily lives of the celebrants, most of whom come from the lower class. The religious and the social overlap; these ritualists are seeking answers to and an exit from oppressive daily circumstances.
The Payangan incident became a massive spectacle in Indonesia and was presented in a sensational true-crime aesthetic on television, more interested in the sect rather than the bigger picture. I am interested in perceiving and articulating true-crime alternatively, not necessarily driven to manipulate the audience’s emotions. I am fascinated in this case with the ides of unravelling and solving a mystery, and finding the appropriate narrative structure that builds to the climactic “revelation” or “answer”, in order to best deconstruct both the reason for the mystery itself, and the pretence of the answer as a monolith.
What happened that night on Payangan beach is an important event to recalibrate and understand the dynamics between our social and environmental surroundings, as well as to the notion of the “Answer”.


Riar Rizaldi


• Monisme | 2023 | 115’
• Fossilis | 2023 | 13’
• Notes From Gog Magog | 2022 | 19’
• Becquerel | 2021 | 19’
• Tellurian Drama | 2020 | 26’
• Ghost Like Us | 2020 | 20’


Production : New Pessimism (Indonesia)
Producer: B. M. Anggana

Coproduction : Dogmilk Films (Australia)
Producer: Sam Hewison

Selective filmography

Stéphanie Roland

Chloé Galibert-Laîné

Dan Sallitt

Paula Rodríguez Polanco

Advik Beni & Nehal Vyas

Leonardo Mouramateus

Katsuya Tomita

Ra Di Martino