The Jakarta Post
Although he has a successful career spanning 15 years, director Rudi Soedjarwo says that he feels like he's starting from zero with his latest two films.
'It does not mean going backward, starting from zero means we learn from our mistakes ' from our arrogance,' Rudi said in a recent interview with The Jakarta Post at his studio in Cilandak, South Jakarta. 'Starting from zero means I want to start a better life, with a new mind-set.'
The 43-year-old does not only talk about having a clean slate in life, but also in his career.
Sporting a dark batik shirt over khaki shorts, Rudi, who rose to fame after directing one of the most famous films of the reform era, Ada Apa Dengan Cinta (What's Up with Cinta?, 2002), was relaxed during the interview, occasionally smoking a cigarette.
Despite his casual look, however, Rudi appeared very much the man in full as he shared his story.
Born in Bogor, West Java; Rudi said he never planned to become a film director, aspiring to become a police officer like his father, former National Police chief Gen. Anton Soedjarwo.
Rudi changed his mind, however, after studying filmmaking at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
As a director, he has a reputation for fluidly moving between genres, such as action (Sebelah Mata), comedy (Mengejar Mas Mas, Teaching the Boys), drama (Tentang Dia, About Him), horror (Pocong 2), teen flicks (What's Up with Cinta?) and even children's movies (Lima Elang, Five Eagles).
Rudi's latest projects ' Stay With Me and 1000 Algojo (1000 Executioners) ' are the culmination of a personal odyssey. 'These past two years I have been relearning about how to make movies ['¦] so it is really learning from zero.'
Filming is slated to start on Stay With Me, a drama about married life, in mid-April, with a release date set for after Idul Fitri; while 1000 Algojo, an action hero movie, is currently in post-production.
'For me, these two films are proof of my process over 15 years,' Rudi said, adding that the new films reflected his personal experiments in method and technique.
He says he is aiming for a less-technical approach so he can create scenes that can touch the hearts of those in the audience.
Applying such an approach poses another challenge, according to Rudi. 'I have to find the right crew for the right film because many film workers are very technical 'and that prevents a film from being personal.
'It does not matter how good your technical skills are,' Rudi says. 'At the end of the day, a film is successful when the events that we record can touch the audience.'
To this end, Rudi has adopted an improvisational approach, using scene guides instead of formal scripts while filming. He has also started to use music as a reference for his crew to share his understanding of the mood to be created for the camera.
'I can no longer use the old rules in filmmaking that I have known, because they do not work anymore. I am making life, not only a movie,' he says.
The films are also special for Rudy, who says that they represent 'personal emotional sharing'.
Stay With Me, for example, was written by Rudi and inspired by his marriage and those of his friends.
'I have been married twice and I have incredible experience that I want to share,' said the father of three. Love, he adds, is something created by two people. 'It takes two to tango.'
He continues. 'One movie is about how to keep your spirits up and the other on how to keep your hopes up ' all positive things. I don't want to make negative movies, I want to make feel good films.'
Such positive spirit is reflected in Rudi's changed perspective on life. 'Just follow the good things, because at the end of the day, we want peace of mind ' and that peace equals no worries and no regrets.'
The optimism is reflected in his other filmmaking projects. Rudi is also running a film school, Rumah Terindah, to foster new talent, and established IFS (Integrated Film Solution) to attract new investors to local movie productions.
An example of Rudi's outreach can be seen in Stay With Me. He convinced women's activist Rosa Rai Djalal, the wife of former Indonesian ambassador to the US Dino Patti Djalal, back the film.
When asked if his new start and new projects would have happy endings, Rudi was not concerned.
'Maybe that's the beauty of filmmaking,' Rudi said. 'You can create your own happy ending.'