It’s a busy afternoon for Gareth Evans, the Welsh director best known for 2011’s tense action thriller The Raid: Redemption. He’s been swamped by fans at his MCM London Comic Con signing, but has still taken the time to chat and take photographs with each of them before he has to dash off to St Pancras for his Eurostar train. Fortunately, in the short break he gets before he has to leave, he’s still happy to make time to talk to us about his affection for Indonesia.
“There were so many things that were gifted to me, really, in a way, as a film maker. Indonesia is so rich in terms of culture and history, and the landscapes are so fascinating and beautiful as well,” he says. “And when I first saw Indonesian martial artists practising pencak silat [the style showcased in both The Raid and its sequel], I realised that I was seeing something that I’ve never seen portrayed on film before. There was something fresh in the Indonesian martial arts that I hadn’t seen in other martial arts genre films, and that was the initial impulse to want to do something out there.”
The critical acclaim he’s earned from his films, all of which have centred on Indonesia, is particularly noteworthy at a time when questions of authenticity in cinema are more common than ever. But, he says, it’s never been something he’s been particularly worried about. “We always cast locally, so there’s no real worry about whitewashing. The only thing I try to do is to add as much authenticity to the films from observations of the country. There are little cultural and religious things we throw in to add flavour. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim society, but they don’t wear it on their sleeve. All the people I met, it was inside themselves, it was part of their heart. So in The Raid, we wanted to find a way of making that feel inclusive of Iko [Uwais]’s character – being a Muslim, but without bashing it down people’s throats.
“At the same time, we do take artistic licence with other elements. Like the scene in The Raid 2 where it snows – it doesn’t snow in Jakarta, ever! It’s one of those things where, if it fits thematically with the film, it’s fair game. For me, it’s about finding ways to progress the genre and the industry further. The infrastructure means that it’s very difficult to make these films in Indonesia, and I think that with The Raid 2, we reached our pinnacle in terms of what we could achieve with the budget.”
On that note, what’s happening with The Raid 3? “It’s some way off, to be honest! I have seeds of ideas for it. I know roughly what the story would be, and how it would play out, but I’m purposefully not touching it yet. I want to take a break from martial arts films for a while, because I’ve done three in a row now. I want to be able to step away from it and then come back and feel like I’m doing it fresh, so once I’ve had a chance to do something different, I can come back and work on it then. But if anything I think Part Three, when I get round to doing it, will probably be a little bit more lean and more contained than the second one. But still offering some cool moments along the way! The only pressure we have is to make sure that, whatever we do with it, we make it good for the audience, and find ways to continually surprise them. But I’ll definitely be working with Iko again, of course!”
There’s one last thing we can’t resist asking – what does he think about the comparisons between The Raid and Dredd? “True story about that one!” he says, laughing heartily. “When I was wrapping up on The Raid, I spoke to a friend of mine who’s an editor who lives in the UK. I told him about the film and sent him a synopsis, and within a heartbeat, he sent me a press release announcing Dredd. And I read it and was just like, ‘Oh f***, we have the same concept! Thank god ours is going to come out first!’ I felt bad for them, because obviously people were throwing a lot of accusations at them, but then a couple of the fans of Dredd threw accusations at us. And I really liked Dredd, it’s a great film and I enjoyed it a lot. It was weird to see little comparisons here and there, and it was interesting to see where certain stylistic choices were kind of similar, and where they changed and how they were different. But they hadn’t seen a frame of ours and we hadn’t seen a frame of theirs; it was just one of those horrible freakish coincidences.”
By Leah Holmes
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