The Jakarta Post
Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo, better known as Wisnu, is the director of the critically acclaimed Turah. (Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo/File)
Local directors haven’t stopped creating great films despite having significantly contributed to the film industry for years. Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo, better known as Wisnu, is the director of the critically acclaimed Turah.
The 83-minute drama is his feature film debut. Produced by filmmaker Ifa Isfansyah, it won two awards at the Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival (JAFF) and received a special mention at the 27th Singapore International Film Festival.
The movie follows the everyday life of 10 families living in an isolated village, Kampung Tirah, under the leadership of a cooperative leader, Darso, and his assistant, Pakel.
In this movie, Wisnu seems to be promoting his birth place, Tegal, Central Java, as characters speak in the Tegal dialect throughout the entire movie, which was also filmed in the district.
However, what makes the film interesting is how Wisnu underlines the harshness and struggle of the lower class, and how they are being exploited by the upper class. The fear and negativity with which the villagers in the film see life, shape them as submissive individuals, which stirs up conflict between them and Jagad, an alcoholic villager who desires change and bravery to fight for truth. In addition, Turah as the main character captures the reality of seeking hope and a more optimistic view of life.
The villagers’ different personalities are strongly depicted through unpretentious dialogues and body language, which come out naturally as they are given by mostly theater actors and actors who are already familiar with Tegal. Turah is serious and compelling, yet humorous, and accurately presents the question of moral values to its viewers.
“I tried to avoid putting background music to this film, knowing that it would be the easiest component to stir viewers’ hearts,” Wicaksono said.
Ifa added: “I never expected Wisnu to make a story as serious as [Turah] as I always see him as a funny person in real life.”
“After I read the first script, I tried to encourage him to make a funnier and more relaxed movie. We failed three times. But over the next two years I looked through his scripts again, and finally I realized that this is really Wisnu’s kind of story,” he said.
When asked about his inspiration, Wisnu said his directing style was inspired by Abbas Kiarostami, an Iranian director whose films are blunt and realistic.
“I was quite satisfied with what I have made [with Turah]. What I didn’t expect was the appreciation toward the film and the [accolades] it received,” he said with a wry smile.
Before directing Turah, Wisnu was involved in several film productions, including Sang Penari in 2011 as an assistant director to Ifa. Before that, he had made several short films.
Wisnu said he was pleased with his filmmaking journey so far and didn’t regret the time and effort he spent making Turah happen.
“I really wanted to be a famous singer, but I backed out because I didn’t want to outshine the other singers,” joked the Beatle and Oasis fan.
Apart from his busy work schedule, Wisnu doesn’t take life too seriously.
“Life should be laid back; it shouldn’t be stressful,” he said.
Regarding his plans for the future, he said he wanted to make another film about his home district, but “in a simpler way.”
Knowing that people expect him to write funny movies, he added that he would continue to inject his witty personality into his scripts.
When asked what he would do if he failed, like with the early scripts of Turah, he replied with a laugh: “I’ll try again until I succeed!”
The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.