Recently nominated in an Indonesian film awards show, i-Cinema Awards, in the category of Best Supporting Actor for My Stupid Boss, Chew Kin Wah’s success story is an unsung one.
A Malaysian, born and bred – he has established a picture of familiarity recently in Malaysian cinemas, also appearing in Edmund Yeo‘s River of Exploding Durians and Jason Chong‘s Belukar, and also in Dain Iskandar Said‘s Interchange. Chew Kin Wah deserves a lot more limelight than he currently gets – coming in to the scene with versatility in both humorous and solemn personas and reaping accolades from across the Nusantara. A candid conversation with him sheds light upon a lot of interesting experiences we believe are worth sharing.
1) Could you tell us how you got yourself involved in the Indonesian film industry?
It was late at night when I received a call from a casting manager asking me to do a “super telefilm” titled My Stupid Boss, an Indonesia-Malaysia collaboration. My first response was, “Yeah sure”. This must be a hoax! Cut to a series of audition videos shot on mobile phones, in mamak shops and parking garages, I find myself on a plane to Jakarta for a reading with the director Upi Avianto, even she surprised at the video quality and locations where we had the auditions, but thats another story. The local fixer was sacked! *laughs* But I must admit that I googled the director’s name and found her work to be quite interesting,
For Cek Toko Sebelah, the director, Ernest Prakasa was writing his script when he saw My Stupid Boss, and decided there and then I was to play Koh Afuk. Oh and a little trivia: both my characters have K, O, and H in their names.
2) What is the major difference between the Indonesian film industry and the local industry?
I have been generally lucky in the sense that most of the production houses I have worked with in Malaysia and Indonesia are reputable and professional, although I have heard horror stories where there are no readings or rehearsal.
The one major difference might be in my honest opinion; the fans/moviegoers. I personally think the Indonesians are much, much more passionate about their movies. The fact that My Stupid Boss were up against Avengers; The Age of Ultron, and Cek Toko Sebelah were up against Star Wars: Rogue One did not become a hurdle at all. We beat them both in Jakarta. They really go all out to market their local movies. I don’t really know about how it is locally, but even after 4 weeks, both My Stupid Boss and Cek Toko Sebelah were still playing.
Also, if I have to name one more thing that is significantly different about the Indonesian industry, it is their attention to details, especially in their music. I rarely see that in local movies. (Check out the soundtrack for Cek Toko Sebelah by clicking here)
3) What do you think can be improved in our local film industry?
Local industry to improve!? *laughs*. Better recognition, remuneration; but I think the key word is still education about the motion picture industry. We still treat the industry as a byproduct, not as something serious, since we are not the sciences, the doctors, the lawyers. As long as we are still only “entertaining people”, we will still be left behind in everything.
We still treat the (film) industry as a byproduct, not as something serious, since we are not the sciences, the doctors, the lawyers. As long as we are still only “entertaining people”, we will still be left behind in everything.
4) Do you prefer comedic roles or more serious ones?
Roles come like fate. You’ll never know what will be given/offered to you. I could have said no when somebody asked me to audition in a car for a movie named My Stupid Boss. Only thing is to do the best I can, and hope for the best.
5) What is your opinion regarding the collaboration between local talents and regional talent?
Just do the math. In Indonesia, the market is huge! It’s just a surprise that we don’t have more of this collaboration. Hopefully, there will be more in the future. Maybe the media should play their part. You guys are the only people to interview me so far, even though Cek Toko Sebelah have broken the 2 million viewership barrier. On a rough estimate 2 mil x 10 ringgit per ticket = 20 million RM. Have you seen the final box office collection? I haven’t even mentioned My Stupid Boss yet.
In a nutshell, now I get the feeling that a lot of Malaysians say “the grass is greener the other side”, especially after My Stupid Boss, where the Indonesians have nominated me. But all of this doesn’t compare when they end the scene with applause or laughter instead of ‘CUT!’ . That to me is recognition at its best. At this moment, Jakarta has a lot going for me, but KL will still be my home. I just hope others know that too.
We at Daily Seni, feel extremely honoured to have had this interview with Chew Kin Wah. We wish him the best and hope for many more great things for all of our local actors looking to make it big into the international stage.