The Jakarta Post
Expectations are running high for the latest HBO Asia original production dubbed as the most ambitious yet for the Singapore-based network, as well as the Indonesian-dominated cast and crew.
The eight-part thriller Halfworlds is currently completing filming at the Infinite Studios in Batam, and will be ready to be rolled out in the region by the year's end.
Helmed by celebrated director Joko Anwar, the one-hour action-packed series tells the story of an underground society of demons known as The Demits living among people in present-day Jakarta.
Joko also co-wrote the series alongside Collin Chang (The House of Usher, 2006).
Although the storyline is based on myth and supernatural tales familiar to Indonesian people, the producers said a wider audience would also easily relate to the characters and the mythology.
'It's something we think is authentic for Indonesian viewers, but it will also have regional and hopefully international resonance,' said producer Erika North, HBO Asia's head of programming and production.
North was speaking at a press conference on June 9 organized by HBO Asia in which dozens of regional journalists were invited to the studio compound to meet the producers and main cast, and to get a glimpse of the soundstage and backlots used for the production.
She said the team was 'thrilled' to have Joko on board, saying that the production was 'in keeping with his style'.
'With Joko's breadth of storytelling experience, and because he crosses multiple genres, he is able to handle a series such as Halfworlds.'
Joko made his debut with the acclaimed drama Janji Joni (Joni's Promise) but attained his worldwide cult status from dark thrillers Kala (Dead Time), Pintu Terlarang (The Forbidden Door) and Modus Anomali (Ritual).
Halfworlds will be his second work on the small screen after the drama thriller Belahan Jiwa (Soulmate) series, but the first to be shown on a international network.
Infinite CEO Mike Wiluan, also a producer of the series, said that Joko fit the requirements for a director who is 'culturally-ingrained with Indonesia but also understood the nature of international filmmaking and audience'.
He said the team was pushing the boundaries of drama and action to give the show's audience a brand new visual experience created by a collaboration of Asia's best talent.
Halfworlds will mostly be in English with some Indonesian thrown into the mix to keep it authentic, something which the cast adapted to admirably according to the producers although it was their first time working on a production with an almost all-English dialogue.
'The ultimate vision is to create something that is truly pan-Asian,' added Wiluan, 'not just forcing Asian actors to play stereotypical roles or force them to speak English in very odd situations'.
The show features Indonesian actors Salvita Decorte, Reza Rahadian, Arifin Putra, Aimee Saras, Adinia Wirasti, Hannah Al-Rashid, Tara Basro, Alex Abbad, Ario Bayu and Verdi Solaiman; Singaporean Nathan Hartono and Malaysian Bront Palarae. Eight-year-old Malaysian Puteri Balqis, the winner of the Best Actress category of the 2014 Asian Television Awards, also appears in the series.
Halfworlds will be the fourth HBO Asia original production, following the feature film Dead Mine in 2012, the Australian-co-produced series Serangoon Road in 2012 and last year's critically-acclaimed horror series Grace.
All of those productions have managed to cross over into other HBO networks and received accolade that, according to North, pushed the team to 'rise to a new level in creating authentic and premium content for viewers'.
While most of the production details were still under wraps, North said more information and teasers will be available in the coming months.
'TV consumption and media consumption has grown increasingly global. There has never been a greater time for cross-pollination across international boundaries,' she said.
' Photos courtesy of HBO Asia