MOULY SURYA FROM JAKARTA TO CANNES

The three films Mouly has made to date have already received plenty of plaudits. Her latest, 2017’s Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, was screened at the prestigious Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival and distributed in more than 40 countries, including the United States. Who could have guessed that, initially, she didn’t even plan to be a film director?

When Mouly was a teenager, she went to Australia to study media and literature at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne. “I wanted to become a writer. Since I was a child, I loved to write and read books,” she explains during our interview in her office in South Jakarta. However, the aspiring writer found a new passion in film after her friend asked her to join an amateur movie project in her last year as an undergraduate student. Hence, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in film and television at Bond University on Australia’s Gold Coast.

It turned out to be the right call. Mouly’s first movie, Fiksi (2008), which she made after she returned from Australia, won a string of accolades, including Citra Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Music Arranger at the Indonesian Film Festival 2008 and Best Indonesian Director at the Jakarta International Film Festival 2008.

Realising her film had been well appreciated, Mouly started to learn more about film festivals and aimed to achieve even more for her second film, What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love (2013). Her effort was handsomely rewarded – the film won Best Music at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival 2013, Best New Director at the Las Palmas Film Festival 2014 and a NETPAC Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2013. The film was also nominated for an award in the category of World Cinema – Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival 2013.

Her third offering, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, a revenge film that inventively gives a female-driven Indonesian spin to the classic western, has seen Mouly reach even higher. This time, as well as winning honours such as the Pylon Award for Best Picture – Asian Next Wave at the QCinema International Film Festival 2017, a special mention in the Asian Feature Competition at the Jogja–NETPAC Asian Film Festival 2017 and a New Asian Cinema – NETPAC Award at the Five Flavours Film Festival 2017, the film was nominated for the Queer Palm at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.

“I am truly grateful for every acknowledgement that I have received, but I believe I can achieve more,” the 38-year-old director says. She is not afraid to challenge herself with something new and to strive to become a better version of herself. “It’s like when we are playing a game: after we finish the first level, there will be a second, third and so on. And if we achieve the final level, we just have to find another game,” she says.

Becoming a film director has not made Mouly forget her initial passion: she wrote or co-wrote all of her films. “The advantage of having a double role is that I can control the creativity,” she explains. “I can design the vision of a film from the beginning. But I have to admit that writing is more challenging than directing. I know this sounds funny, considering initially I wanted to be a writer,” she laughs.

Mouly also collaborates with her film-producer husband, Rama Adi.Mouly and Rama have been working together since her first film, and have also set up a production company, Cinesurya. How do they manage to balance personal and professional life?

“It works because we have the same passion. We also have the same mission in our personal and professional lives, so I find it synergistic and effective,” she answers. “But it also works because we both have our own hobbies and me-time, so we can avoid the feeling of, ‘it’s you again and you again’,” laughs Mouly, who is also mother to a nine-year-old daughter, Reisachi Moranisa.

Mouly’s collaboration with Rama will continue on their next project, a film adapted from a novel by Indonesian journalist and novelist Mochtar Lubis’, Jalan Tak Ada Ujung. “It’s still in the development process,” she says.

As a filmmaker, an entrepreneur, a wife and a mother, Mouly travels frequently with Garuda Indonesia. “My parents introduced me to Garuda Indonesia when I was a child,” she says. “And I continue to fly with Garuda Indonesia because the airline makes me feel safe.”

From Colours OCTOBER 2018