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[InC-terview] Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts, a 'Satay Western' by Mouly Surya!

By Say Peng  /  16 Nov 2017 (Thursday)
Ever since her debut film, Fiksi premiered at Busan International Film Festival, filmmaker Mouly Surya has been considered one of Indonesia's cinema's bright lights, a talent to look out for. With her sophomore film What They Don't Talk About When They Talk About Love, she became the first Indonesian filmmaker to have her film premiere at Sundance Film Festival. The film also won the NETPAC Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2013. 

Surya is back with her third feature, the feminist 'satay western' Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, which premiered at the Directors' Fortnight at Cannes this year. The film will screen at the Singapore International Film Festival on 24th and 25th November.
InCinemas: You were introduced to the project by fellow Indonesian director Garin Nugroho, who had visited Sumba Island which was the inspiration of the project. How did you  

Mouly: It was quite a random moment when he gave me the story. We were on a jury at a film festival together in Indonesia. And he said that we should make a movie together, that he has a story that he really wanted to tell me. He thought I could make this story very interesting. He told about the story and sent me an outline the next day. I gave it to my producer and my producer completely fell in love with it.

The thing is, I find myself quite distant from the story at first. This is the first time I did not make a film from my own story. It took me quite a while to make the story my own. [Garin] gave me a 5-page treatment. We stuck to the premiere basically and we decided to bring out a couple of characters. We like the idea of a western because of how the story was constructed and how the Sumba island looks like in August and September. After toying with the idea of the western, it began to grow on me and I started to relate to the film better. 

It took me quite a while, probably about a year after we finished the script. I told the producer and the co-funder as well that I think this is a good script, I think this is one of the best scripts that I have written so far. I think it was around a few months before we shot the film that my father passed away. I think the grief of losing my dad made me connect with the film better in a way, if that makes sense. 

InCinemas: The film address the issue of rape and the lack of a support system for female rape victims. Is this a very rampant issue in Indonesia now?

​Mouly: The story and setting is very specific in Sumba Island. The island, I think is more about - of course, it's about women as well because it is a very patriarchal society. But the island is very rural, very hard to access, and it's very far from where the capital of Indonesia is. And that's the kind of support system that they have. When we did our research, there was someone who said that Sumba is a forgotten island. And there are many islands like Sumba with access problems. Say, for example, the first government school in Sumba was in 1982. We had our independence in '45. I find that tragic. 

InCinemas: This film is an international co-production. Can you share with us how so many countries got involved?

​Mouly: The first country that got involved was France. Our projected was picked for Cannes Cinefondation, which has a project market, and we pitched our project there. And that's where we decided to work with Isabelle Glachant from France. We applied for the Cinema du Monde from the CNC [




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