Feature

Hollywood filming in Jakarta

Congestion: Jakarta’s infamous traffic managed to startle Hollywood moviemakers shooting in the city. JP/P.J. Leo

A group of Hollywood actors, actresses and filmmakers who recently shot a movie in Indonesia said that despite certain challenges of nature like sandstorms and scorching heat, their experience in the country was “beautiful” and eye-opening.

But there was one unnatural challenge that was seen as particularly demanding: the traffic in the country’s capital.  

“Jakarta traffic is a difficulty because we have to get around it and we have to leave extremely early in the morning to get to the studio and end up getting home late in the day…” director and scriptwriter of the movie The Philosophers John Huddles said last week after a press conference.

The Philosophers, which features James D’arcy, Bonnie Wright and local stars Cinta Laura Kiehl and Natasha Dewi, and which had 200 Indonesian crew members, was produced by George Zakk and Cybill Lui. It is slated to be released in May or June of next year.

The movie, made in cooperation with local television station SCTV, was shot in a variety of locations in Indonesia: Belitung in Sumatra, Bromo in East Java, the Prambanan Temple in Central Java and in Jakarta.

Huddles said approximately one-third of the movie was shot in the country’s traffic-ridden capital.

“Traffic has been an interesting thing that we are trying to fight all the time. I don’t think anybody was quite prepared for the amount of Jakarta traffic,” producer Lui said.

The traffic even managed to surprise most of the cast members who came from big cities.

The Frost & Sullivan Journey Experience Index,  from a survey conducted from September 2010 to February 2011, reported that Jakarta’s satisfaction index was one of the lowest among 23 cities in the survey.

The city scored an average of 30.5 points while Copenhagen, which topped the index, scored an average of 81.5. One of the factors for the dissatisfaction was the traffic.

The Jakarta Transportation Agency said earlier in 2010 that traffic cost the city Rp 46 trillion (US$5.4 billion) in 2010, up from Rp 35 trillion in 2009.

Nevertheless, the gushing comments on the rest of the filmmaking experience were flattering.

“It has been spectacularly beautiful filming in Indonesia… this is the most beautiful country I have ever visited in my life,” D’arcy said.

Hope Wilson, a cast member from Nigeria, said Indonesia reminded her of her homeland.

“Before I came here, a lot of people told me it was a little bit dangerous and you better be wary of where you are going but ever since I have been here, everybody’s so great… people just smiled… I had such a great experience,” cast member Tasser Hassan said.

Producer George Zakk said one of the pivotal figures that encouraged him to choose Indonesia as a location was businessman Eddy Sariaatmadja.

“[Eddy], with great enthusiasm and childlike energy and tenacity, he traveled to the Toronto Film Festival and Los Angeles over six, seven times, to convince us [to shoot the movie in Indonesia],” he said.

“This is the second result of our journey to promote Indonesia as the shooting location for the world’s movies. The first was Eat Pray Love, starring Julia Roberts… We can see the director is quite famous, the director is bona fide, and the movie stars are good,” Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik said during the press conference.

He added that the ministry had two targets. The first was to promote Indonesia as a shooting location for the world’s movies and the second is to market Indonesia as a tourism destination by using the movies shot here.

“This is a low-cost, high-impact method,” Jero said.

Star: Cinta Laura is featured in The Philosophers, a Hollywood film shot in Indonesia. JP/Wendra Ajistyatama
According to Jero, he promoted Indonesia as a shooting location when he went to the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. The ministry even made a special book, which he said he had sent to various international producers, for that purpose.

Jero added that Belitung, known for its beaches, was targeted as a new international tourism destination.

He said at the press conference that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had requested a meeting with the cast and makers of The Philosopher, to which Zakk replied that they “graciously accept”.

The Philosophers, classified as a PG-13 thriller, tells the story of a number of students at an international school in Indonesia who were challenged by an eccentric teacher to an experimental test.

Lui said that there might be a chance for a premiere in Indonesia.

“Everyone would love to come back, absolutely,” she said.

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