Director Mirwan Suwarso says he is up to anything, as long as it contains a strong message. (Photo courtesy of Mirwan Suwarso)

Director Mirwan Suwarso Has His Plate Full With International Projects


OCTOBER 26, 2017

Jakarta. After his recent military action flick "Merah Putih Memanggil," director Mirwan Suwarso is already engaged in many projects, including a play in the United States, adaptation of a book by an Australian author, and another action movie.

Having started his career in advertising, Mirwan moved to arts and entertainment in 2011.

His MSP Entertainment produces live stage performances, feature films and television content.

One of the plays he wrote and directed, "Jabang Tetuko," is set to be performed in the US in 2019. First staged in Jakarta in May 2011, it tells a story of the birth of Gatotkaca, one of the mythical Javanese heroes. Mirwan modernized the traditional shadow theater (wayang) play with video effects and rock 'n' roll songs.

In an interview with the Jakarta Globe on Oct. 20, Mirwan said he participated in a fair by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) in New York in 2013 and 2014 to promote his projects. This led to an invitation to tour several American cities, but the plan had to be postponed, as his team faced travel problems.

Eventually, he decided to have an all-American cast in the US edition of the play.

It is not the first time for him to work with foreign actors. He said they were committed to learning Indonesian culture and did splendidly in their performances.

American actress Camille Guaty known from "Prison Break," played the role of goddess Batari Durga in Mirwan's 2012 musical "Gatotkaca Kembar: The Evil Within." In 2013, Spanish singer-songwriter Laura Vall learnt to sing in Indonesian to become Hanoman's mother, Dewi Anjani, in "Hanoman: The Ultimate Warrior." So did Daniel Torres of Broadway Boys, who as Batara Guru shared the stage with Vall.

As "Hanoman" has been performed in the US, Australia, and Europe, famous foreign artists boosted its appeal at home.

Mirwan said that when "Jabang Tetuko," his first play, was about to be staged, many complained about the ticket prices. The play featured all-Indonesian cast.

Once he started hiring foreigners, suddenly money no longer mattered. Tickets priced at Rp 2 million ($150) were sold out first.

"Sometimes Indonesians can't appreciate their own culture until a foreigner steps in to take a role," Mirwan said.

Other than performances based on Javanese mythology, he also staged musical "Jakarta Pagi Ini" ["Jakarta This Morning"), featuring legendary rock band Slank in 2014, which he considers his best work.

Adapting a Best Seller

Another project lining up is an adaptation of best-selling book "Snowing in Bali: The Incredible Inside Account of Bali's Hidden Drug World" by veteran journalist Kathryn Bonella.

The book, which is a follow-up to Bonella's "Hotel Kerobokan," delves into the drug trafficking world in Bali, which is one of the hotspots in the global narcotics trade.

Mirwan acquired movie rights to "Snowing in Bali" last year.

"It was a stiff competition, because many producers wanted to film it. I spent two years on a convincing proposal ... she sold the rights to 'Hotel Kerobokan' to someone else, but it was so poorly executed that she didn't approve it for broadcast and later became very cautious," Mirwan said.

After getting Bonella's approval, Mirwan had to find a co-producer. He chose Peter Lawson who was the executive producer of "Spotlight" and "John Wick."

With Lawson they decided to change the format into a series instead of a feature film.

"We are now rewriting the script and trying to break it down to 12 episodes," Mirawan said.

Besides giving more space to tell the book's intricate plot, the series will also bring bigger revenue, considering the room for commercials and today's binge-watching habits.

This is going to be Mirwan's biggest project so far. The pre-production stage is expected to take around two years.

Possible Collaboration With Jason Statham?

Mirwan's most recent film, "Merah Putih Memanggil," is a story of a fictional rescue mission by the Indonesian Military's special forces unit (Kopassus). The film, released in early October was co-produced by TeBe Silalahi Pictures, and features real Kopassus members among the cast.

The director is planning to make another military action film in 2018.

"I've requested another collaboration with Kopassus to find an authentic story set here, which will also appeal to the international audience," he said.

Mirwan wants the story to be based on true events for the film to be more realistic. In "Merah Putih Memanggil," although the storyline came from TeBe Silalahi Pictures, details were shaped by personal experiences of the Kopassus soldiers.

Mirwan will work with David Hillary, executive producer of "London," which starred Chris Evans and Jason Statham. Chances are Statham will also appear in Mirwan's film.

The busy creativepreneur, who is also the chief executive of soccer-themed OTT platform SuperSoccer TV, said he likes having many projects in hand. He is up to anything, as long as it contains a strong message.

"I just hope to have a positive impact. I won't make a sappy soap opera or a cheap horror movie or a comedy about people behaving like fools. I feel I have a responsibility to deliver something that will benefit the next generation," he said.