Mbah Jhiwo

Mbah Jhiwo / Ancient Soul
The plot is simple, even archetypical, that’s why it lends itself so well to being repeated. Yono is a sulphur miner living in eastern Java. One day, his wife Oliv leaves him, and he tries to get her back. Another day, his mother falls ill, and he tries to get her well. The plot’s outcome is unchanged with every repetition, although the three resultant variants are far from identical, as one of the belief systems that usually inform life in conjunction is brought to the fore each time: animism, Islam and finally capitalism. Oliv is thus to be won back via magic, pilgrimage or Facebook, while the cure for Yono’s mother lies in ceremony, prayer or simple vital signs. Greenery gives way to billboards and neon, and cryptocurrency and mobile phones cast new spells, even if each fresh facet teased out of the setting contributes to a portrait of one and the same place. Regardless of what’s practised around it, the mountain keeps spewing sulphurous smoke, making outlines indistinct and boundaries blur, like the film itself: a billowing, uncategorisable cloud of anthropology, parable, metaphysics, observation and collaboration, where even the filmmakers themselves briefly come into view.
by Alvaro Gurrea
with Yono Aris Munandar, Sayu Kholif, Musaena'h, Ach. Efendi, Nurussalam, Roni Hidayat
Spain 2021 Osing 93’ Colour

Part of the Berlinale Summer Special


  • Yono Aris Munandar
  • Sayu Kholif
  • Musaena'h
  • Ach. Efendi
  • Nurussalam
  • Roni Hidayat


Written and Directed by Alvaro Gurrea
Cinematography Alvaro Gurrea
Editing Manuel Muñoz Rivas
Sound Design Alejandra Molina Rios
Sound Tommy Tomjar
Production Design Carolina Díez-Cascón
Costumes Carolina Díez-Cascón
Assistant Director Yopie Nugraha
Production Manager Nurussalam
Producer Rocio Mesa

Produced by

My Deer Films

Alvaro Gurrea

Born in 1988 in Barcelona, Spain. He has a Master’s in Creative Documentary and spends extended periods of time in Indonesia, where he shot his first feature-length film Mbah Jhiwo with a rural community in East Java.


2016 Crossboundaries; 10 min.

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2021