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Singapore Festival: Mouly Surya Talks ‘Marlina’ Journey

Indonesian filmmaker, Mouly Surya has had an incredible journey. Her first film, 2008’s “Fiksi” was a Busan festival selection, while 2013’s “What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love” was nominated for the grand jury prize in the World Cinema – Dramatic strand at Sundance, and won the NETPAC award at Rotterdam.

Her latest film, “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” premiered at Cannes, won the NETPAC award for new Asian cinema at Poland’s Five Flavours Asian festival and shared the grand prize this week at the Tokyo FILMeX with fellow Indonesian Kamila Andini’s “The Seen and Unseen.” Both films play this week at the Singapore International Film Festival.

“Marlina” was unusual for Surya because it was the first time that she was working from somebody else’s story. It came from Indonesian veteran, Garin Nugroho, who will deliver a masterclass at SGIFF. She was initially reluctant about accepting the story, but producer and co-writer Rama Adi strongly believed in it.

The film is a thriller that follows the titular Marlina, a woman who leads a quiet existence until a man named Markus sends her life spiraling out of control.

“When I rewrote the script with Rama, developing the story and how I would visualize it, was the time it really drew me in,” Surya told Variety. A few months before the film went into production, Surya lost her father. “Making this film was my solace,” says Surya. “Somehow the grief and the film connect.”

For many filmmakers, Cannes is the end goal. But for Surya it was the beginning. A good screening there can give life to a film, but a bad screening can render it dead on arrival, says Surya. In the case of “Marlina,” Cannes went extremely well and festival invitations flooded in.

Sales agent, Asian Shadows has sold the film to more than 40 territories. It released in its home territory of Indonesia last week.

Surya is undecided about her next project. “We believe in challenging ourselves and we are looking for that project that will raise the bar further,” says Surya.

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