Kamis, 07 April 2011

Interview With The Director Of Merah Putih

'Red and White are not just colors of the flag'

Iwan Setiawan , Contributor , Jakarta | Sun, 08/23/2009 1:19 PM | Screen

Almost every year, people come up with new fun ways to celebrate Independence Day. Many others prefer to observe the occasion in more solemn, low key ways. With his latest film, Yadi Sugandi followed his heart's deepest yearning to showcase his care for Indonesia.

He was asked to direct Merah Putih (Red and White) only three days before production began. Initially filled with doubts, the director of photography for the teen flick Tiga Hari Untuk Selamanya (Three Days for Forever), managed to convince himself taking up such a tremendous challenge would be worth it.

"I didn't want to see a movie about Indonesian history which is fully produced by foreigners," Yadi says.

Merah Putih was released last week and has generated mostly positive comments from film critics, who have praised it for offering a fresh look at the founding of the nation.

Starting out his career as a photographer, Yadi is no stranger to the film industries both at home and abroad. Among other accolades, he was named the Best Director of Photography in Asia Pacific 2001.

"Lots of people, our great grandparents, struggled, shed their blood for the Merah Putih *the national flag*. It is essential for us to reflect and understand why this nation needs and deserves to be defended and to be proud of" he said.

Loaded with action, Merah Putih is an epic drama that takes place in the first days of an independent Indonesia, during the time when the Dutch and their allies tried to reinvade the burgeoning nation.

The drama unfolds when youths from all walks of life join the struggle to fight the common enemy and defend the country's newly embraced freedom. Merah Putih is the first of a planned trilogy, which will cost a total of Rp 60 billion.

Yadi, however, does not call his work a "history film", because many parts of the film are fictitious.

"We tried to combine facts with action, drama and comedy. Our primary objective is to encourage nationalism and pride in being part of Indonesia," he said.

In the film - which stars Rahayu Saraswati, Darius Sinathriya and Lukman Sardi - Indonesia's plethora of cultural roots and ethnicities are wrapped in one big nationalistic theme.

"There are high moral and social responsibilities that we have to deal with during the conception of this film. But for such a great purpose I dared myself to take risks," he said.

"At least now our young movie buffs can see the reason why the flag means a lot to us.it's not just a piece of cloth that we hoist on Independence Day."

The involvement of foreign crew members, including producers Rob Allyn and Jeremy Stewart as well as script writer Rob and Conor Allyn, was the talk of the industry long before the production process began.

Yadi said there were lessons to learn from the production, as it was hard to get people from the entirely different cultures to work together effectively.

"The producers and scene writers are foreigners and of course, they think and create the story plot in their realm. But this is a film about Indonesian nationalism, based on our history. As a director, I had to be realistic and told them that not all of their ideals could be realized. There were times when I took the liberty to change things and fortunately, everything ended up on the right track," he said.

Nevertheless, Yadi says he learned a lot working with his experienced foreign coworkers.

"We still can't handle these great special effects. And there was once incident when we had to call a weapons expert from Australia to fix a rifle broken during the shooting,

"Another example was when we had to burn a village. They covered the roof with a chemical liquid to make the fire last longer, so I could get longer view to shoot. We don't have that sort of meticulous knowledge."

Being the only film on nationalism currently screening at theaters filled with sex and horror-comedy flicks, Yadi hopes movie buffs will enjoy Merah Putih and take home its message.

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