It’s true that North America churns out some pretty great movies and TV shows. Hollywood movies can be found all over the world, dominating the box office. But while the size of the film industry in most other countries can’t compare, the quality and inventiveness of the films they produce very much can. One such film is Buffalo Boys, an Indonesian/Singaporean film which has quietly been getting some love from film festivals here in the U.S.
The martial arts-meets-Western-meets-revenge story is a genre-mashing good time, full of painstakingly choreographed action and stakes. Set in the late 1800s, the film revolves around two brothers who return to their homeland of Java after years of exile in the American West to avenge the death of their father, a former Sultan, at the hands of Indonesia’s Dutch colonizers. If you’ve ever wanted a movie with ninjas and cowboys, swords and gunplay, this is the movie for you.
Actor Yoshi Sudarso, who plays exiled brother Suwo, had a whirlwind time prepping for and shooting the film. The action is partially set in America, but then returns to Indonesia, and the Indonesian language is used, which was a challenge for Sudarso to remaster. Born in Indonesia, he and his brother spoke no English when they moved to the United States as kids. Tired of being bullied at school for it, they made a pact to only speak English in order to learn it faster. So he had to relearn the language of his childhood for the role. “My vocabulary was that of a child and two decades out of date with the slang,” he explained. They brought in a dialect coach for him and they worked on the script five to six days a week, eight to twelve hours a day.
Still, the chance to make his big screen debut as a lead actor and to be able to do it in his home country of Indonesia convinced him to commit fully to acting rather than stuntwork. “It was an opportunity for me to reconnect with my culture and language that I had lost touch with,” he said.
The opportunity for the film to be a truly global one appealed to him. “The world that Mike Wiluan created was so beautiful and everything just fit in beautifully,” he enthused. “The movie takes place in Indonesia, but we have all kinds of people from different places coming in[to the movie], similar to that of the cast and crew. I loved how international it was.”
It’s that genre-splicing, international feel that he hopes will propel Indonesian film, and greater representation of the culture, into the mainstream. “I think the Indonesian people need to have more things for them to be proud of,” he explained of his hopes. “Growing up, we didn’t have much to call our own, most people didn’t even know what Indonesia was. It was a story every time anyone inquired where I was from, why I don’t look like a normal Asian, etc. I’m glad I can be part of putting Indonesia on the map.”
It’s for all the kids like him that he’s making this movie. While the goal is for everyone who watches to be entertained – and they will be – Sudarso admits that he’s especially proud of the film they’ve made for third culture kids like him:
I hope the general audience will have fun and enjoy the world that we’ve created. But I think for the third culture kids out there, this movie is for you guys! It’s a movie about a someone who is born in one country, leaving for a foreign country and feeling like they don’t belong and then coming back to the country they were born in only to feel even more alienated. But realizing that in the end, it’s not that we’re “neither;” we’re “both.” We are the bridge. It’s all of our journeys, wherever you’re at or from. You belong.
The film is getting a limited theatrical run in North America, but don’t worry if you’re not in a major city to catch it in theaters. If you can see the action on the big screen, do! But it’s also being released via VOD and digital this weekend. You can get tickets here or find it on iTunes.
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