We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Thirty years of Indonesian history swirl around the title character of A Courtesan, a beautiful but hapless Javanese woman. Widowed soon after her marriage and rejected by her late husband’s family, Tinung has no choice to become a ca-kua-ban, a prostitute who serves primarily the Chinese merchants who dominate trade in Dutch-ruled 1930s Batavia (now Jakarta). Temporarily, she finds love and comfort with businessman Tan Peng Liang, but he must flee the country, which is later conquered by the Japanese. Adapted from a popular novel, Nia Dinata’s stagey 2002 drama is notable for color, pageantry, and a sense of the turmoil of mid-20th-century Indonesia. But don’t expect to learn much about its protagonist’s inner life. Although she’s at the center of the story, her perceptions are hidden. Whether she’s a metaphor or just underwritten, Tinung comes across as a particularly winsome bit of colonial property. The film screens at 2 p.m. in the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 633-4880. (Mark Jenkins)