Tales of the Waria

Stories of transgender love and longing from Indonesia,
the world’s largest Muslim country

Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. It is also home to a transgender community known as warias, biological men who live openly as women. Tales of the Waria  follows four characters from this little-known community as they search for romance and companionship. Shot over three years with the local LGBTQ community serving as consultants and film crew, the film reveals a world that not only defies our expectations of gender and Islam, but also our endless capacity as human beings to search for love– whatever the consequences.

“A fascinating exposé."

–The Advocate

"The beauty and honesty are heartbreaking."


"The best film for teaching about the cultural construction of gender and sexuality."

–Prof. Leslie Dwyer, George Mason University

watch the trailer

the filmmakers

Kathy Huang, Director/ Producer/ Cinematographer

Kathy Huang’s career as a filmmaker began in the dusty fields of South Texas. Inspired by her experiences teaching in a rural high school, she produced her first documentary on a teenager coming of age along the US-Mexico border. Her work has continued to center on underrepresented communities facing unique challenges and has played at festivals such as Tribeca and SILVERDOCS. Learn more here.

Carla Gutierrez, Editor

Carla Gutierrez is an ACE Eddie nominated editor. She edited the Oscar nominated documentary RBG, about the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has also edited La Corona (Oscar nomination); the Emmy nominated films Reportero, Kingdom of Shadows and Farewell Ferris; When Two Worlds Collide (Sundance Special Jury Award, Cinema Eye nomination), and Chavela (Berlinale). Carla is currently a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures.

Gil Talmi, Composer

GIL TALMI is an EMMY nominated film composer, sonic activist and recording artist with a passion for socially conscious films. His most recent work includes original music for Harry & Meghan, Battleground, Lead Me Home, Jacinta, White Noise, and The Great Hack. He has won numerous awards, including Best Documentary Score from Soundtrack Geek for his music for Tales of the Waria.

Tiara Tiar Bachtiar, Associate Producer

Tiara Tiar Bachtiar is a waria based in Makassar, South Sulawesi. She has worked for several years as an outreach coordinator at Gaya Celebes, a non-profit health organization focused on educating gay and waria communities about HIV/AIDS. Though Tales of the Waria  is her first film project, Tiara is a natural at coordinating shoots, wrangling subjects, and conducting on-camera interviews. You might also recognize her as one of the film’s main characters (and breakout star)! 

Aldy Mardianus, Associate Producer

Aldy Mardianus is a native of Palopo, South Sulawesi, and a graduate of Hasanuddin University. His interests lie in forestry, HIV/AIDS prevention, and now, film production. Aldy has proven himself to be a gifted videographer and sound recordist. He is also an expert on Makassar’s finest eateries.

Handi Ilfat, Sound Recordist

Jakarta native Handi Ilfat is a veteran of documentary films, having worked on projects such as the PBS documentary The Burning Season, the Discovery series After Life, and NBC documentary Wild Things. He is a man of many skills, and is able to hold a boom for hours on end or change a flat tire at a moment’s notice.

Dimas Jaka, Production Assistant

Dimas Jaka is a university student majoring in computer information systems. He brings boundless energy to the project and is known for his great patience and prowess in navigating Makassar’s narrow roads.

Irfan Ady Sastera, Photographer

Irfan Ady Sastera is a native of Barru, South Sulawesi and graduate of the Biology Department at Hasanuddin University. He has worked for several years as a wedding photographer and UNICEF photographer. This is his first time working on a documentary film and he has embraced the challenge with great enthusiasm.

Dr. Tom Boellstorff, Academic Advisor

Tom Boellstorff is Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he is the author of many articles and the books The Gay Archipelago: Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia and A Coincidence of Desires: Anthropology, Queer Studies, Indonesia. A former Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist, the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association, he co-edits the Princeton University Press book series Princeton Studies in Culture and Technology


“Filmed in the cinematic coastal region of South Sulawesi, this sumptuously shot narrative follows four warias in their respective quests for love. It’s a testament to Huang’s storytelling skills that Tales of the Waria gets us there. What, in lesser hands, could’ve been a hot filmic mess of politics, religion, and ugly –isms too obvious to name is instead a compelling documentary about the real lives of people not unlike you or me.”

– Artcards

“Directed by Kathy Huang, an emerging star in the documentary world, the film brilliantly captures the humanity of the four subjects. Despite their hardships, Tales of the Waria is ultimately uplifting, giving audiences a glimpse of a thriving transgender community. I only wish that it were a bit longer.”

– Meniscus Magazine

“Kathy Huang’s purely intimate account of the community of transgender individuals in Indonesia reveals a lifestyle that challenges gender within the confines of Indonesia’s traditional, Islamic beliefs. Nothing is assumed nor proposed. There is no moral or ethical agenda. Tales of The Waria is about life, family and finding love, regardless of gender.”

– Fruitflylife.com

Watch an interview (in Bahasa Indonesia) with film star and Associate Producer Tiara Bachtiar.

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