A TRAVELER’S TALE. Nicholas Saputra chats with DAMAN about his collaboration with Omega, his passion for art and, naturally, filmmaking
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The past couple of months have been busy for actor, patron of the arts and conservationist Nicholas Saputra. Same goes for the months ahead. We caught up with the actor on a balmy Tuesday afternoon, only days after he returned from Morocco and right as he was about to leave Jakarta again. And before that, as you can see here, he was in London, showing us how best to wear an Omega timepiece in style.
Besides for the photo shoot, however, Saputra was also in London to attend the 60th anniversary of Omega’s Speedmaster line. “Everything was thematic, but not in a forced way and it was all amazing,” he recalls of the space-themed bash, where he met the likes of Buzz Aldrin and George Clooney, and even had a brief encounter with Liv Tyler. “And the location was one of my favorite places in London: the Tate Modern,” he points out while flicking through photos of the event on his phone. Then he adds: “I’m enjoying the show too much.”
It would seem that Saputra, who is listed as an official Speedmaster fan on Omega’s website, enjoys the storied timepiece too. “I think it’s aligned with my interests,” he says of the Speedmaster watches he has seen and worn. “I like anything with good quality but very subtle and simple.”
From London, as we noted before, Saputra’s journey brought him to Morocco. It was, apparently, his second time. “The first time I was there I was more into hiking in the Sahara,” he recalls. This time around, however, he spent more time in Marrakesh. “The vibe of the city—there’s nothing like that in the world,” he says. “You could find yourself in a slummy alley in a market, but then you open a door and you see a beautiful hotel with swimming pools and all that.”
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Even as he’s fighting off the jetlag from his last journey, Saputra is already on the move again, albeit to somewhere closer to home this time. Specifically, he’s collaborating with prominent artist Angki Purbandono to create an exhibit for this year’s ArtJog festival. “This is actually a pilot project based on an idea about artist residency,” the actor-slash-conservationist elaborates. “I wanted to create a more specific residency program, connecting artists with conservation issues. For this one, it’s about elephants.”
Saputra has indeed become a strong advocate for the protection of the endangered Sumatran elephants, and is now spearheading an awareness program to support research on the Elephantid herpesvirus—a leading cause of death among elephants that isn’t fully understood yet. Fortunately, his push has been successful, with the European Union now issuing policies to support research into the disease.
All this is centered on Tangkahan, a small village near the border of the Gunung Leuser National Park located in North Sumatra. Why there? “It’s personally close to me,” he answers solemnly. “I first came there in 2005. About three or four years before that, the place was full of illegal loggers. But after ecotourism was introduced, they became guides, because their knowledge of the jungle is superb. Then the EU adopted one of the baby elephants there and everything fell into place.”
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Back to the artist residency program, Saputra basically raised funds to send Purbandono to Tangkahan for a month and then gave him complete artistic freedom to capture the essence of life in the jungles. The resulting works are now on display at ArtJog, and the proceeds of it will then be used in an exchange program. This is where we can really see Saputra’s long-term game plan. “So, if we previously sent an artist from Yogyakarta to the jungle, we will now send two persons from the jungle to Yogyakarta,” he explains. “We already have two programs, one for art and one for permaculture, since the people [in Tangkahan] are still dependent on foodstuffs from the outside. They do have the space, so we want to introduce the permaculture system to them. That’s what we want to do.”
The terms “creating change” and “giving back” tend to be overused quite a bit these days, but this is certainly a case of a celebrity doing it the right way and for all the right reasons.
Of course, Saputra is still very much involved in filmmaking and continues to step up his game. But even here we see again how personal connections play an important part in his artistic choices. For example, last year, he appeared in “Interchange,” a Malaysian-produced thriller (Saputra’s first collaboration with a foreign studio, by the way) where he plays as a bird-like supernatural being. “What got me hooked when Dain [director Dain Said] proposed I act in it was the story of the Dayak people of Kalimantan [or Borneo], because it’s something I’m close with as well,” Saputra reveals. “I basically know about the idea that the film wants to convey, and also about the enggang bird [hornbill].”
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“I like anything with good quality but very subtle and simple”
Going forward, Saputra is quite happy with his “one movie a year” pace. “It’s a number that’s perfect for me to execute,” he says with a chuckle. “I don’t think I can do more than that, because I give 100-percent of myself for every project. And that takes up a lot of energy, so, since early on, this kind of pacing is something that’s comfortable for me to do.”
Of course, this led to the inevitable question of what he will be doing this year. “I might be shooting something in August or September, but I can’t talk about the title and all that right now,” he replied. And then he quickly added: “It’s not ‘Ada Apa Dengan Cinta 3,’ if that’s what you want to know.”
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