THE BELLE IS BACK. In her second appearance in the magazine, Julie Estelle chats with Joezer Mandagi about action movies, international exposure and movie piracy
Outfit by Lanvin
Working with familiar faces is always fun. Or perhaps “smooth” would be a better word. You know the drill; they know the drill; so all the prep work gets done in no time, people get in position and then boom … magic happens. That is pretty much how it went with our photo shoot with the lovely and multi-talented Julie Estelle in her second outing as a DA MAN Darling. Yes, she also appeared in the March 2009 issue. Now, of course, she has moved forward in leaps and bounds ever since. But perhaps, we’d best begin her new story with a short recap.
Julie Estelle—model, actress and one-time voice actress—rose to fame in 2005 when she appeared in her first movie, “Alexandria.” She then went on to star in all three “Kuntilanak” films and gained international attention through 2010’s “Rumah Dara,” which was distributed in the U.S. and Europe as “Macabre.” The 2010s also saw Estelle appear in more and more high-profile productions, such as “The Raid 2: Berandal” as the ax-crazy Hammer Girl (and this is despite her lack of a background in martial arts; but, then again, she learned her on-screen moves directly from Yayan Ruhian) and “Surat Dari Praha” (“Letters From Prague”).
Outfit by MICHAEL Michael Kors
But, as they say, change comes from within. So, when I asked her what the biggest ones were since she last appeared on the magazine, she begins with the usual “Oh, so many” but then continued with “I recently started in action movies, so I trained in martial arts—silat.” And, of course, one thing leads to another. “I started learning a lot about martial arts and eventually, for myself, I began exercising more and I became a lot more fit.”
While “The Raid 2” is a tough act to follow (for instance, Jonny Weston, another one of our featured actors in this issue, described it as “hands down, the greatest martial arts movie ever created. Ever.”) Estelle does have several high-profile titles in production. “One of my upcoming works which will start showing mid-year is ‘Headshot,’ which is another action movie, and then there’s another one titled ‘Firegate,’ which is more of a supernatural adventure.” Interestingly, both titles are excellent indicators of where Indonesia’s movie industry is heading as it continues to attract global attention and is therefore forced to raise the production values of local works.
Outfit by Louis Vuitton
Take “Firegate,” which will reunite her with “The Raid” star Iko Uwais. This movie apparently puts a lot of emphasis on post-production. “That one will start showing if not by the end of the year, then early next year, even though we wrapped up shooting before ‘Headshot,’” Estelle explains. “But this movie, which is about Gunung Padang [the Gunung Padang megalithic site, to be exact], has a lot of CGI, so the post-production will take more than a year.” This kind of pacing is almost unheard of in Indonesian cinematography. If anything, hearing of a local production team that opts not to aim for a quick release (e.g., minimize overheads and cut production costs) is welcome news for the average movie-goer wary of sub-par movies.
“And stop pirating movies, which is killing the film industry”
“Headshot,” on the other hand, continues the trend of foreign involvement in local productions which, in turn, leads to increased exposure in foreign markets. “There will be producers from Japan as well,” Estelle went on. “From Katsu [Productions], so there will be an international release for ‘Headshot.’” This heightened appreciation for Indonesian filmmaking can be traced, once again, to “The Raid.” Not that this is surprising, but it can be quite surprising to see just how much of a household name it has really become. “Nowadays, when you go to movie festivals and we say that we’re from Indonesia, people will go, ‘Oh, The Raid, right?’” Estelle recounts.
Now, while Indonesia has become increasingly popular for its martial arts-heavy action flicks, there’s plenty of incredible talent in terms of (pure) acting, directing and writing. The next step in bringing all this talent to light, according to the French-Indonesian belle, is to produce works with more creative storylines. And this brings us to the age-old problem that has for a long, long time kept Indonesia’s creative industry from truly taking off: domestic appreciation.
“People usually want to see Indonesian movies, but rarely will they go through the effort of going to cinemas and buy tickets,” Estelle laments. “That’s what sometimes makes investors wary of gambling on big-budget movies.”
Outfit and bracelets by Hermès
As clichéd as it may sound, money has always been the primary engine of fimmaking. “You can count them with your fingers,” she points out, referring to the number of local movies with budgets of dozens of billions. Ten billion rupiahs, by the way, would be around three quarters of a million dollars at current exhcnage rates. Obviously, this is small change compared to the average cost of your typical Hollywood blockbuster, but it would be beyond what most local production houses can afford. More importantly, it is way beyond what investors would be willing to sink into a locally-produced motion picture what with the local climate being the way it is.
Still, she’s not overly pessimistic about Indonesia’s chances to grow its filmmaking capacity. “Hopefully, in the future, the Indonesian people will be more supportive of Indonesian films, by going to cinemas to watch,” she continues, before going for the most important bit: “And stop pirating movies, which is killing the film industry.”
“Nowadays, when you go to movie festivals and we say that we’re from Indonesia, people will go, ‘Oh, The Raid, right?”
More than the number of cinema-goers, piracy has become a bigger bane for local filmmakers. While the actual net impact of copyright infringement is still hotly debated overseas, its detrimental effect is all too real for smaller-scale entertainment industries. Or industries still struggling to grow such. This sentiment has been echoed by many of the actors, directors and producers covered in this magazine. So, while those responsible for making movies have their work cut out for them, as long as the public still drag their feet in taking the next step and become paying customers, the rise of Indonesia’s filming industry will similarly drag on for quite a while.
Outfit by Louis Vuitton
Now that we’re done with the doom and gloom, what would be the next step for her, though? “Well, actually, this year, we’re talking about a few other projects which are meant for international release,” she declares. “I can’t say too much because nothing’s fixed yet, but we’re working on it; we’re looking for scripts for an international movie. So, we’ll see how it will go this year.”
In the meantime, however, she’s more than happy to take a breather before committing to any new project. “I’ve gone for half a year with no break at all,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve been shooting three movies in a row. Coming back from ‘Surat Dari Praha’ I immediately started shooting ‘Firegate’; back from ‘Firegate’ came ‘Headshot.’ Actually, it’s only now that I have time to breathe.” Of course, then she went on to mention movie offers and an upcoming theater project to commemorate the late great author Pramoedya Ananta Toer. It seems that there is, as always, no rest for the weary. And remember, people, stop pirating movies.