Thursday, 6 June 2013

Joko Anwar Part II

It’s a long way from a teeming Medan kampong to making movies in Jakarta, a tough journey that took talent, determination and resolve, as well as a bit of good fortune. It is a story that is the stuff of movies, the hard-luck, almost incredible tale of a lonely little boy who set his mind to achieving his dreams.

Fate may have something to do with success, but self-belief also is a big part of the formula. If others doubted Joko’s talent, it seems that he was firmly convinced that, whatever it took, he would reach his goal. “I always finish what I start,” he says.

Joko was born in the North Sumatra capital to a Javanese father, who moved away from his hometown after a string of family tragedies. He was a becak driver; Joko’s mother had been married three times before.

They were a poor family and it was tough to make ends meet: When there was no rice in the house, they would go next door and “borrow” some from their neighbors. It was a crowded cluster of humanity where everybody kept a watchful eye on those around them.

“Something happened when I was small – my mother would go away for three or four days at a time. Well, we lived in a kampong, and everybody hated us, people started to gossip about us, about prostitution and stuff.”

He said other children would gather outside his home – “they looked like a choir standing there” – chanting “whore’s kid” when he went outside.

His only escape was the local movie theater, called the Remaja. Here he could pay Rp 100 for a Sunday showing of cinematic also-rans, from local occult films to low-budget slasher flicks from the U.S. and Europe.

As he got older, he would come home from watching a movie and rewrite it in his own words. The dog-eared notebooks, he said, are stacked somewhere in Medan. The films and their characters gave him an education in life, he adds.

He first dreamed of being an actor, but his brother told him he was not sufficiently good looking to be in front of the camera. “My mother kind of confirmed it for me by saying that I wasn’t bad looking either,” he jokes. Poverty, loneliness, social ostracism: It has all the makings of a three-hankie tear-jerker.

“But it’s not sad. I never thought my childhood was bad. I thought I had a lovely childhood. Even now, if I look back, all the pain and everything, it’s nice, it’s poetic.”

Most of his peers were in trouble by the time they were teenagers, he said.

Joko did his own thing, studying hard, watching videos whenever he could, writing plays and persuading his parents to let him become an exchange student to the United States.

Again, determination and some luck saved the day: Although his family only had a portion of the administration fee for the program, he was fortunate to be selected for a scholarship.

He had been a play-it-by-the-rules teen, a boy scout and die-hard supporter of president Soeharto (he was chosen to represent North Sumatra in the prestigious Paskibraka national flag-raising corps for Independence Day).

The trip to the U.S. was a revelation, with the myths of New Order Indonesia exposed as he pored over articles in the local library.

He returned to study aeronautics at the Bandung Institute of Technology. It seems like a strange choice, but it was one made out of necessity, because his family did not have the funds for him to enroll at the Jakarta Arts Institute.

Although Joko continued to devour movies at every opportunity, he balked at the entry requirements for the campus movie enthusiasts club (someone somewhere must be kicking themselves). He finished college and was accepted at the Post, another stepping stone in his plan to become a filmmaker.

“I thought that if I became a journalist, I could find a way to be an entertainment reporter and meet filmmakers, and then BS my way into the industry.”

Instead, he was stuck on the new reporter’s beats of the city and national police headquarters. Frustrated by the routine, he went freelance after 10 months, starting his regular Now Showing/Still Playing columns and occasionally contributing profiles about members of the film community.


Inilah bukti dari passion itu.
Joko Anwar tidak pernah mengenyam pendidikan di Sekolah Film, namun karena passion, ia berhasil menjadi sineas ternama di Indonesia yang menghasilkan banyak film berkualitas.
Passion membuatnya berhasil menangkap apa yang ia ingin, sekalipun proses yang dilewati cukup panjang, bermula dari ITB Teknik Penerbangan, bergabung di The Jakarta Post hingga menjadi kritikus film dan bertemu dengan Nia Dinata, seorang produser film yang pada akhirnya mengajaknya bergabung di Proyek Film Arisan.

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