Uma Lulik (Sacred House in Tetun language) is a film that follows the construction of a sacred house in the mountainous region of Venilale (Timor-Leste). Traditionally speaking, the Uma Lulik is the centre of everything, the umbilical cord between the past and the present; for those alive, it is a secured reservoir of past memories and wisdom; for the dead, it’s a timeless place, where history is constantly renewed. The construction or renovation of a sacred house usually takes place every 10-20 years; this cycle revitalises the ties with their forefathers, it also regenerates the loyalty and mutual responsibility between relatives and different families.
Uma Lulik was the first documentary entirely filmed by an East Timorese – filmmaker and artist Victor de Sousa–, who over 9 months captured one of the oldest traditions in Timor-Leste, transporting us to the universe of his forefathers, unquestionable and present in each moment and for every object born from the land and from the collective memory of the East Timorese.
Uma Lulik remind us that the reconstruction of national identity, specially after the destruction of most of the sacred houses during 24 years of Indonesian occupation, is now passing through the villages and the mountains, where memories and the sacred are returning slowly to their place, returning home.
In Uma Lulik, David played the role of executive producer, co-editor and mentor of Victor. The film was funded by DOCTV CPLP, co-produced by IDA and supported by the Secretary of State for Arts & Culture in 2010. The film opened at the Cinemateca in Lisbon in September 2010 as part of the 1st CPLP DOCTV. A follow up national presentation took place on 10th October 2010 at Hotel Timor, and subsequently the film was shown on national TV channels across all Portuguese speaking countries, including RTP International and reaching a potential audience of 300 million viewers. It was an official selection at the Brasilidade Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro in 2010 and the International Film Festival in Luanda 2010. In 2011, it was shown at the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin, and before the end of the year, it received the 3rd Showtime Top Ten Audience Award (3rd out of 135) at BIFF (Brisbane International Film Festival).
In 2012, it was screened at the Kino 18, an initiative to promote Timor-Leste culture at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow (Poland). In 2013, Victor was invited to present the film at the Maha Art Gallery and Kopi Kultur Space in Bali—and in August 2014, at the 37th Festival de Cinéma de Douarnenez in France, which was dedicated to the people of Indonesia, Papua and Timor-Leste. In 2015, the film was screened during the Ciclo de Cinema da CPLP at the Fundação Oriente’s Delegation in Dili, as part of the 2nd CPLP Civil Society Forum in Timor-Leste.
In June 2017, the film was screened at the National Museum of Ethnography in Portugal, as part of the exhibition ‘Timorese Architecture: Miniatures of the World’. The exhibition was a tribute to the research made by Ruy Cinatti (1915- 1986), Leopoldo Castro de Almeida (1932-1996) and António de Sousa Mendes (1921) on the traditional architecture in Timor-Leste, resulting in the book Arquitetura Timorense (Timorese Architecture). The exhibition highlighted a set of scaled-models of houses and ritual constructions made from the early 1990’s onwards by Pedro and João Tolentino.
Uma Lulik has become a cult-classic film about the cultural identity and traditional life of Timor-Leste. It has inspired other audio-visual productions such ‘The Heart of Eat Timor’ by Janak Rogers for the BBC Heart and Soul and ABC Australia. Click these links to read further reviews: ‘Compelling look at East Timor tradition’ by SBS Australia and ‘Victor de Sousa Pereira: Timor Leste’s first indigenous filmmaker’ by the Jakarta Post.
In January 2015, a copy of Uma Lulik was deposited at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon.