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18

THURSDAY

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Shot in a desert region of Eastern Java, Whispering Sands mingles equally powerful feelings of dread and enchantment. Indonesian director Nan Achnas’ first feature is set in a time of drought and unspecified political or ethnic conflict, when angry mobs burn small villages to the ground and government troops are just as menacing as the marauding civilians. Yet Daya is mostly happy with her mother, a maker of traditional cures, and their simple life. She just misses her father, a traveling salesman of dubious character. Eventually, Dad arrives, and Daya learns she was better off without him. Slow and stately, this 2001 film makes adroit use of such traditional Indonesian arts as shadow puppetry, as well as scenery that seems more Sahara than South Pacific. The story is slight, but the mood is powerful. The first of two new films from Indonesia on offer, Whispering Sands screens at 7 p.m. in the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 633-4880. (Mark Jenkins)