WELSH DIRECTOR RAIDS INDONESIAN INDUSTRY
EXCLUSIVE Gareth Evans/The Raid: Redemption Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.
The last person you would think could get away with directing an Indonesian action film is Gareth Evans. The accent on the other end of the phone is Welsh, and yet this unknown Welshman has ended up making one of the most talked about action film of the year, all with subtitles: The Raid: Redemption. One wonders and questions how on earth a lad from Wales ends up in Indonesia in the first place? Talking swiftly with accent in toe, Evans explains that his wife is in fact Indonesian/Japanese “and we were in fact living in the UK at the time. I’d always wanted to work in film, but I’d never done enough to get myself really noticed in the UK”, Evans explains. It was his wife who got the ball rolling by “contacting her friends and contacts in Indonesia and she managed to get me a gig doing a documentary about martial arts in Indonesia, specifically silat. So the course of doing that documentary in six months, I got to learn about the country’s culture, traditions, and their martial arts discipline.” Evans says he’s always been a huge fan of martial arts films since childhood, “but I never thought I’d be MAKING martial arts films especially silat.” Americans may not necessarily associate Indonesia with a thriving film industry but Evans insists that it’s surprisingly strong. “It’s pretty good. I mean the budgets are low but there are a lot of productions going on. Last year alone there were like 80 films made. But one thing I was very surprised by was to what the extent the industry accepted me there. I’ve made some good friends in the industry who have supported my work, and me and they haven’t looked at me in a negative way. I really feel that Indonesia has given me my career.”
The Raid: Redemption is an adrenalin charged action thriller inspired by the likes of Assault on Precinct 13 and Die Hard. The film revolves around a SWAT team sent on an unknowing suicide mission to remove a crime boss (Ray Sahetaphy) from his 15-story urban apartment building that serves as his headquarters. When the squad’s head (Joe Taslim) is killed, a rookie (Iko Uwais, who also served as fight choreographer) has to lead his guys through 14 video-monitored floors filled with murderous thugs. In developing this script, Evans created a world that he insists is entirely fictional and in no way reflects the realities of contemporary Indonesian culture or crime. “I mean there’s no such building in Indonesia and crime isn’t really structured that way, so I decided to create a storyline and something that could be understood universally,” Evans explains. “I tend to write the script entirely in English first and that gets translated into Indonesian for the dialogue.” Evans then workshops the script “for the actors to make sure that all the translation is correct and that they feel comfortable with the lines of dialogue that they have. It’s a long process but something I’ve been accustomed to now.”
Asked what he thinks sets The Raid apart from other martial arts action films, Evans pauses. “The action discipline makes it a martial arts film but I don’t feel the structure of it is martial arts. When I designed the concept of it, that it’s really a survival horror film and thus we can introduce so many different flavors and not keep it wholly within the martial arts genre. So we brought in horror, thriller and suspense elements to it.” Asked about what the impending success of The Raid can do to his career, Evans is not looking forward beyond the sequel to The Raid, which is immediately next. “On a basic level, I just hope this film is a success and that my next film is easier to get off the ground. It’s all about the work and just wanting to continue to make different movies and hopefully there’s an audience for each movie that I make.” As far The Raid 2 is concerned, “the aggression level will be the same as the first one but the shooting style will be slightly different this time, in that we’re looking at shooting in a more classic way. We’re expanding the story in the sequel, so it’s not going to be contained within one building any more, and we’re going to take the world to the streets and meet the higher echelons of the gang world, and hopefully the audience will go along for the ride again.”
THE RAID: REDEMPTION IS NOW SCREENING IN SELECT MARKETS.