Psychology researcher by day, a film and theater critic by night
Sherina Munaf. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)
Sherina Munaf traveled halfway around the world before she realized her life had come full circle.
“It feels like it’s my first time acting,” the 28-year-old explained.
After walking away from her on-screen career while a child star in 2000, Sherina has returned and has been soaking up the spotlight since the release of the Angga Dwimas Sasongko-directed actioner Wiro Sableng last August.
The box office hit made its European festival premiere at the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, on April 29 and Sherina was on hand to take in the applause – and reflect on her own journey.
“I had to re-learn everything from scratch,” she explained. “When you’re a child, it’s easier for you to use your imagination and play around without thinking about the consequences. When you’re an adult, you’re more aware of your surroundings.”
Her return to the big screen came after time away from the Indonesian entertainment world as she took off to Japan to learn about editing and animation, driven by an obsession for storytelling that even led her to observing the inner workings of the renowned Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki, famous for the Oscar-winning Spirited Away ( 2001 ).
The young actress revealed that music has been her main focus for a while because she never saw film as a potential platform for her storytelling. “[But] once I did Wiro Sableng, I realized there are so many stories to tell and there is so much space to do it,” said Sherina.
The trip to Italy for Wiro Sableng was Sherina’s first to an international film festival. She said she was aware that only some of the comic elements of the movie were universal, and she wondered whether an international audience would get the majority of the jokes as they were very “Indonesian”. It turned out she needn't have worried. “It was quite surprising to see people here laugh,” she said.
The first-ever collaboration between the American giant 20th Century Fox and Indonesian film studio Lifelike Pictures, Sherina said she was inspired by working with more experienced actors including Vino G. Bastian (as Wiro Sableng) and Fariz Alfarazi (Bujang Gila Tapak Sakti) as her character Anggini develops into a fully-fledged warrior.
Sherina Munaf as Anggini in 'Wiro Sableng'. (instagram.com/wirosablengofficial/File)
Sherina also had to master the ancient martial art of silat, while learning how to work with Anggini’s weapons (a magical extendable shawl and needles). Although she was used to using a sword from years of training in Chinese wushu and taekwondo, Sherina revealed she was a quick learner. “I practiced with a normal shawl with little weights at the end, so that I could get used to throwing it around or having it around my waist. While we were filming, the shawl I use in the fighting scenes had a green line on the end and during post-production, they added the CGI effects. I had no idea it was going to look this awesome.”
Wiro Sableng impressed audiences too, earning more than US$3 million at the box office. Thinking back to the film’s world premiere when the whole crew was very nervous, Sherina said that they were happy to hear that Wiro Sableng resonated really well with the audience. “We deliberately put in a lot of pop culture references, even though it is set in the 16th century - we wanted to make it a bit more anachronistic and funny,” she said.
The fact that an Indonesian movie had never been co-produced with a studio as large as Fox added to the excitement for the crew, as did the fact that Sherina and Vino both starred in a cross-over trailer for Deadpool 2 that helped give their movie some well-earned international attention. “It was fun and the hype we got from the trailer was great for the movie,” said Sherina.
Reflecting on her role as Anggini - interestingly enough, one that is not included simply as a romantic interest for main character Wiro – Sherina said she recognized traits similar to her own personal values. “To some extent, I can relate to Anggini’s ambition - if I fall in love with something, I will become obsessed with it,” she said.
When it comes to the influence of Wiro Sableng on the Indonesian film industry, Sherina believes it has proven to be a groundbreaker.
“Having a co-production with a big Hollywood studio is big for Indonesia,” she said. “Hopefully, what we did can be a trailblazer for productions in our country. To know that there’s going to be a sequel and more, it means that there’s a market for it.”
Of that sequel, Sherina revealed: “We would like to add more action-based comedy so that everyone will be able to resonate with it.”
As a fan of musicals and classic Disney movies since she was a child, Sherina found music has always had a place in her life. After her comeback with Wiro Sableng, the singer-actress hinted that her fans might soon get an opportunity to see her in a movie which will merge her two great passions.
“The beauty of acting is being flexible,” said Sherina. “If things go well, we’ll go into production next year.” (wng)
Jovana Gjorgjiovska attended the Far East Film Festival’s Campus program, which promotes cultural exchange and shared education between young writers from Asia and Europe.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.