Jakarta. National Police Chief Tito Karnavian, riding a motorbike with his wife Tri Suswati, gets pulled over by a traffic policeman at the Sarinah intersection on Jalan Thamrin in Central Jakarta. The normally gruff Tito laughs nervously as he receives a ticket for riding his motorbike without a helmet. Tri, dressed in black tracksuits and a white-brimmed hat, begs the officer, "Please don't give us a ticket, officer. We're friends of the National Police Chief."
Too funny to be true? Yes, the short scene is just a little comic relief in the action-packed "22 Menit" ("22 Minutes"), a new movie by Eugene Panji and Myrna Paramita Pohan that opened in cinemas nationwide on Thursday (19/07).
The 75-minute film is inspired by the Sarinah gun and bomb attacks that rocked the Indonesian capital in January 2016.
The directors decided to title the film 22 Menit after learning that the attackers – which included suicide bombers – were overcome by police and security forces in just 22 minutes.
By the time Tito finished filming, the sun was almost at its highest point. Tito and Tri walked to the Starbucks nearby, the coffee shop that was obliterated by the suicide bombers in the attack. Then the film crew went on their lunch break.
"This is all Eugene's idea," Tito told Jakarta Globe as he sipped his iced coffee. "It's called a cameo. I just found out about 'cameo' from him. I had no idea that acting is so difficult. We had to repeat the scene so many times. It was hot and exhausting, although I know the crew were even more exhausted," he said.
Tito was dressed in a white t-shirt, grey jogger pants and a baseball cap for the scene – about as casual as you can get for the highest-ranking police officer in the land.
Actor Ade Firman Hakim, playing the police officer who booked Tito, shook hands with the police chief before they started filming to wish the newbie actor good luck.
"This is a fun scene! I'm playing a police officer who books his big boss!" Ade said.
Tito said the police gave a chronological report of the Sarinah attack to the filmmakers to write the script for the movie.
According to the report, several explosions that killed eight people (five of them were the attackers) and injured more than 20 people happened in the space of 12 minutes.
Then a fierce fire exchange between police officers and the attackers went on for ten minutes out on the street before most of the terrorists were finally gunned down.
One of them accidentally blew himself up as he apparently reached for an explosive inside his bag.
Two attackers were seized alive with two bombs that they did not have time to detonate.
Tito said he himself approved the road closure at the Sarinah intersection for the filming, which predictably caused traffic commotion around the area.
"It would have been too difficult to recreate the setting if they shot the movie somewhere else. So we closed off the road, but only on weekends. It's the same procedures with street parades or protests. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, but it's all for a good cause," Tito said.
Eugene and Myrna, and producer Lexy Mere, began pre-production for 22 Menit earlier this year. In a separate interview, Eugene said he remembers vividly the day when the Sarinah attack took place because he immediately took to social media to sing his praises for the police: "Polisi Kita Hebat!" ("Our Police Officers Are The Best!").
"Some of my friends criticized me for that post. But I told them when someone is bad you should criticize them, but when they're good, you should praise them. Let's be fair," he said.
Later on, Eugene met with Myrna, who had just finished working on "Crime Investigation: Indonesia Special," a television series for Channel Asia.
Myrna spent one-and-a-half years doing research at Polda Metro Jaya (the National Police headquarters) for the series.
In fact, she got locked down inside a meeting room in the police compound when the Sarinah attacks happened.
22 Menit began filming in April and wrapped up just in time for the fasting month in May. This is an ambitious project for Eugene and Myrna – since none of them had done an action film before.
Their press release promises real explosion scenes in the movie, with Hollywood-level CGI and intense fire exchange.
Myrna, who runs the production house and film distribution company Buttonijo Films with her husband Amir Pohan, is more used to making short films and helping other filmmakers find funding for their passion projects.
Eugene's most recent film is "Naura & Genk Juara," a 2017 family drama that created some controversies because the baddies in the film were dressed in Muslim outfits.
It's a lesson he learned the hard way and the main reason why he dressed the terrorists in 22 Menit in just shirts and trousers.
"We're filming on Jalan Thamrin, we've got so many grounds to cover. The police deployed their best teams for the movie. You can see all 18 units from Polda Metro Jaya in our movie, including [anti-terror unit] Densus 88. It's exciting, but the protocol is something else," Myrna said.
At one point during filming, actor Mathias Muchus, who plays the police chief in the movie, was cornered by police officers who wanted to correct his uniform.
The cameo featuring Tito was also changed overnight by his assistants.
Initially, Tito and Tri were going to appear as a couple who jaywalked across Jalan Thamrin because they were in a hurry to go to a wedding party.
"Every single detail is crucial in this movie. We had to put our actors in a bootcamp for a month just so they can learn how to cock their weapons and walk like real police officers," Myrna said.
The movie follows Ardi (Ario Bayu), a member of the police's anti-terror unit, as his team hunts for the Sarinah attackers after the blasts. Eugene said they added snipers and more action scenes, which is why he calls the project a fiction, not a docudrama or a reconstruction of the event. All characters in the story are also fictional.
According to Eugene and Myrna, the back-and-forth plot in 22 Menit is borrowed from "Vantage Point," a 2008 Pete Travis film starring Dennis Quaid about an assassination attempt on the President of the United States.
"For us it's important that this movie talks about humanity and tells the stories of people who were hurt by the bombings," Eugene said.
Tito said he immediately warmed to the idea of 22 Menit because it depicts a real event and showed the everyday life of police officers.
Tito said more filmmakers should try to find inspirations from law enforcement cases.
"Natural disasters, hostage rescue, terrorism, drug trafficking, robbery, cybercrime, crime against women and children – filmmakers can learn from us about these cases. Every closed case that's no longer on trial can be made into a movie," Tito said.
He said Indonesian filmmakers should take cues from Hollywood studios that regularly produce films featuring a big heist, hijack or kidnapping.
"With 450,000 officers, our National Police force is the second biggest in the world after China. There are so many stories to tell about us," Tito said.