Superhero flick ‘Gundala’ spotlights Indonesia’s rife corruption and moral policing

Tan Mei Zi
Joko Anwar (2nd left) poses with the cast of ‘Gundala’ during a press screening at TGV Cinemas in Suria KLCC. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 23 — Joko Anwar wanted to do more than show off slick fight scenes when he began directing and writing his first superhero film, Gundala.

The Medan-born filmmaker also wanted to shine a light on the social issues that are plaguing his home country of Indonesia.

Gundala tells the story of Sancaka, a blue-collar worker who harnesses the power of lightning to fight his enemies in a city haunted by corruption and moral policing.

During the six months he spent writing the script, Joko said it became clear to him that he wanted to hold up a mirror to society with this film.

“What’s very relevant in our society today, especially in Indonesia, is corruption and the fact that people are participating in oppression that’s also being advanced by the government.

“For instance, there are always groups of people who try to force their values and ways of life on others.

“They will weaponise the word ‘morality’ so they can label someone as being immoral when they don’t like what other people are doing,” said Joko.

Abimana Aryasatya (left) stars as Sancaka while Malaysian actor Bront Palarae plays Pengkor, a disfigured crime boss bent on revenge. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Gundala is the first installment in the BumiLangit Cinematic Universe (BCU), a franchise that’s been frequently dubbed as Indonesia’s answer to the hugely popular Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The film raked in 67.67 billion rupiahs (RM20 million) in the Indonesian box office when it premiered there in August this year.

The BCU is based on a series of superhero comics from 1969 by Harya “Hasmi” Suraminata, who drew inspiration from Javanese legends to create his characters.

Joko said he hoped to keep Indonesia’s cultural gems alive by bringing the story of Gundala to the big screen.

“One of the richest resources we have in Indonesia is our culture and artistic heritage, and one of the examples of that is our comics.

“We made the BumiLangit Cinematic Universe so that the younger generation can see how we brought those stories from decades ago to life, and we did it through film which is a medium that’s familiar to them.”

Gundala stars Abimana Aryasatya, Tara Basro, Ario Bayu, Cecep Arif Rahman, Rio Dewanto, Muzakki Ramdhan, and Malaysian actor Bront Palarae as the film’s main antagonist.

The movie officially opens in Malaysian cinemas on December 26.

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