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Read the full Q&A here, or in The Jakarta Globe.
Suridh Hassan packed in a lifetime of travel before he reached the age of 13. The filmmaker and author’s travels have included Cuba, Israel, Russia and Taiwan, and his multiethnic background, coupled with his wanderlust, has turned him into a socially conscious documentary maker, producing films that delve into different cultures.
After living in Cambodia for the past year, the British-born Hassan has come to Jakarta, where he plans to immerse himself in the city’s creative arts scene, produce films and rediscover his Indonesian roots.
Suridh, you recently moved to Jakarta from Siem Reap. Why did you make the move?
Moving to Jakarta was an easy decision. I’ve got a massive community of friends here and I am half-Indonesian, so I wanted to know the place and where I’m from. I see Jakarta as a gateway to the other regions of this archipelago, because I want to travel to Sulawesi, Flores, Papua and Timor as well.
What do you think of the city so far?
Jakarta’s cool. It’s pretty multicultural, 100 percent, compared to a lot of cities. People have a nice mix of religion and culture here, and in Jakarta people tend to get along. Jakarta is also a bit of an attraction because its got a huge creative industry. So if you’re making films or if you’re into art and music, which is what I do, for me, it’s only Tokyo and Jakarta that have that kind of vibe.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I’ve always wanted to make films, ever since I was 16, but I really got into it when I was in college. I wasn’t particularly good at school, but I discovered a subject called media studies where I got to pick up a camera, run around North London, film things, put together little ideas that incorporated politics and other subjects, and I was like, ‘Oh wow, I’m actually into something.’ I just connected with this, and took it from there.
What kind of films do you like to make?
I’m quite a bit into reporting. I want to present certain issues, ideas and agendas to people. So whether we make a film about the trafficking of young African footballers or we make a film about a London music scene, it’s trying to present a certain scene, perspectives and subcultures to the audience. I come from this school of thought where, basically, if everyone’s going in one direction, go in the opposite. There are all these facets and places in the world to do stories, and it’s much more fascinating to do something against the grain.
Tell us about your latest film.
It’s called ‘Soka Afrika.’ The film is currently on its screening tour in Barcelona and New York. The film is mainly about how young African football players make it in Europe. My business partner, Ryo, and I came up with this idea to make the film after we noticed that trafficking of footballers happens quite a lot . We followed two under-20 footballers; one was your typical superstar fast-tracked to fame in Holland, and the other player was essentially illegally trafficked as a youngster to Paris. It was such a huge idea, and we wanted to do it for the launch of the World Cup. Unfortunately we didn’t get it done in time as it just wasn’t possible to get the depth that we wanted.
What inspired you to make ‘Soka Afrika’?
Ryo and I were involved with an NGO in the UK called Alive and Kicking. The organization would hitch up in Africa, where they would make leather footballs. After about a year and a half, they would integrate people living in the area and step back and let them take over. It’s an interesting organization because they’re creating these little macro-economies. From working with them on a small film, we wanted to do something about football, and we just kept happening on the trafficking issue.
How did you find the characters?
Just research. If you do your research online, you can find out that there are many stories about this.
How has your background and upbringing influenced your work?
I suppose just me being half-Indonesian, a quarter Indian and a quarter Swedish, culture and religions always played a massive part in my growing up. When I was young, I traveled a lot, and I respect my mum for that. I was lucky enough to go to India a lot and Europe and the Middle East quite a bit until I turned about 12 or 13. So I traveled massively until I was that age, which is why now I travel a lot myself. It all contributes to me wanting to do more socially conscious work, something a little bit more relevant.
What do you hope to accomplish during your time in Jakarta?
I’d like to stay a year, and kind of use Indonesia as a testing ground for my ideas. I want to make a short film that explores Jakarta’s daily life in detail. From taxi drivers and bajaj drivers to a parking attendant. I’d love to do something to incorporate their world into the little subgroups of Jakarta and how they all fit together.
Suridh Hassan was talking to Debra Pangestu.