Special

Tastemakers: Joko Anwar, filmmaker  


03 August 2016

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Recipient of the Citra Award for Best Director at the 2015 Indonesian Film Festival for ‘A Copy of My Mind’, Joko Anwar doesn’t place his string of accolades on a pedestal – a common sentiment noted in many of his past interviews.

As one of Indonesia’s most popular filmmakers, Joko has earned critical and commercial success for his dark thrillers, ‘Kala’, ‘The Forbidden Door’ and ‘Ritual’. His film ‘Arisan’ also received numerous awards at the Indonesian Film Festival (2005) and MTV Indonesia Movie Awards (2004).

His psychological thriller ‘Forbidden Door’ (2009) has been screened at film festivals around the world including The Times BFI London Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam and New York Asian Film Festival.

Going beyond the Tastemakers 2016 series, where he tells the story of his original ambition to be an actor, we ask Joko how he makes his characters believable, why he prefers to be on set before his crew and his ultimate travel gear.

joko anwar life inspired tastemakers

Which do you think is harder to curate, the opening shot or the closing shot? 

The opening image is definitely harder to curate. I wrote my own films and I usually couldn’t start writing before the opening shot appears clearly as a mental image. Sometimes it took years to be able to actually start writing down a script. The closing image is easy. It basically writes itself.

How do you make a character believable?  

To make a character believable I usually make it clear how a character thinks about four major things: religion, politics, love and arts. By doing this, it won’t just make a character consistent, but also interesting.

Do you watch and critique your films and TV series when they’re out?

When I watch my own films, I mostly see the mistakes I did. But I think it’s a good sign. Once you think your work is great, you’re doomed.


To make a character believable I usually make it clear how a character thinks about four major things: religion, politics, love and arts.


In the Tastemakers 2016 series, you speak about learning from the mistakes of other filmmakers. What was your personal biggest mistake and the lesson learned?

There’s one project that I did that didn’t end up being something that I can say I’m proud of because I couldn’t get enough involvement in the final phase. The lesson learned is that no matter how time- and energy-consuming a project is, you have to put in enough effort to build good relationships with the people you work with so they will put their utmost trust in you.

If you could go back in time and give young Joko a pep talk, in the kitchen where your mum was cooking that eggplant cabai, would you have pushed young Joko to be an actor? 

I would have said the same thing my mum said to me then. But I would also tell my younger self that everything would be alright and that he had nothing to worry about.

Find out what were Joko’s mum’s exact words, watch the interview in Tastemakers Indonesia 2016 on Life Inspired, Sunday, 14 August, 10:30pm MY/SIN/HK.

What is your pre-work routine in the morning? 

My pre-work routines involving listening to my favorite music — Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, and Radiohead — and driving. I usually arrive earlier than my crew so I can feel the set. I would be groggy and uncomfortable if everyone arrives before I do.

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No matter how time- and energy-consuming a project is, you have to put in enough effort to build good relationships with the people you work with.


In one of your previous interviews, you mentioned that winning awards was never a goal. So, what is your definition of success? Would you say you’re successful?

I don’t believe that success is one static point. You reach one goal then you move on to reach another one.

How do you stay inspired?

I listen to people. I listen to people’s conversations. I watch movies — lots of movies. I travel. I go to museums and art galleries. And most importantly, I do things I like to do.

What gear do you usually travel with? 

A cellphone, camera, Kindle, Bluetooth speaker — a must, and headphones.

Are you creatively satisfied?

I must say, I am.

Tastemakers 2016 premieres Sunday, 7 August, 10:30pm MY/SIN/HK.


Interview by Dee May

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