Evans: ‘Raid’ director discovers action inspiration abroad

10 Directors to Watch 2012: Gareth Evans

Age: 31
Homebase: Jakarta
Inspired by: Sam Peckinpah (” I watched ‘The Wild Bunch’ with my father and it had a major impact”), John Carpenter (“?’Assault on Precinct 13′ creates great tension on a limited budget”), John Woo, Takeshi Kitano and Takashi Miike.
Reps: Manager: Management 360 (Darin Friedman)

What, it’s fair to ask, is a Welsh-born director doing in Jakarta making martial arts movies? Gareth Evans, whose “The Raid” became a sensation in Toronto Film Festival’s Midnight Madness lineup and is making its U.S. bow at Sundance, says he’s not really that surprised to find himself at the center of a revival of movies featuring the Indonesian silat fighting style.

“These movies are really in my blood. I watched tons of martial- arts movies over and over again growing up,” says Evans, whose producer wife, R. Maya Barack-Evans, has Indonesian family roots. In 2007, Evans’ fascination impelled him to venture to Indonesia to make a documentary about silat, which he had never before witnessed firsthand.

“It was a revelation,” he recalls. “What so impressed me about silat was its fluidity, allowing for adaptability to every possible physical situation, whether a pair of fighters is in a tiny space or there are groups under massive attack.”

While his previous feature, “Merantau,” made a modest blip with martial-arts auds, Evans wanted to create an action showcase that would deliver the confrontations at a faster pace for higher impact. Originally, his plan was to make a silat actioner, “Berandal,” but budget complications forced new plans, which led to “The Raid” and its story of a police invasion of a 15-story building ruled by a drug kingpin.

The practicalities of a contained location, plus inspiration from “Die Hard” (an Evans favorite), was just the combination to make “The Raid” possible. (“Berandal” is now planned as a sequel to “The Raid,” with star and fight co-choreographer Iko Uwais returning.)

“We learned that the key to push the fighting to a new level, far beyond what’s shown on Indonesian TV or in previous films, was to prepare, rehearse and storyboard months in advance,” the director says. “While Hong Kong and Thai martial-arts movies are able to draw on years of experience and stage action sequences on the set during filming, we didn’t have that, but I think we produced something that’s extremely intense. Violent, yes. But never exploitative.”

10 Directors to Watch
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Valerie Donzelli | Gareth Evans | Philippe Falardeau | Mike ‘Mouse’ McCoy & Scott Waugh | Gerardo Naranjo | Matt Piedmont | Michael R. Roskam | Lynn Shelton | Benh Zeitlin