Feminist Western 'Marlina the Murderer' Sweeps Indonesian Film Awards

Mouly Surya's revenge saga, which is Indonesia's submission for the foreign-language Oscar, won a record 10 trophies at the country's national Citra Awards.

Mouly Surya's feminist western, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, was the overwhelming favorite at Indonesia's Citra Awards in Jakarta over the weekend, earning a record 10 trophies, including for best picture and best director.

The annual awards show, now in its 38th edition, is Indonesia's highest honor for filmmakers, often referred to locally as the "Indonesian Oscars."

With its 10 wins, Marlina broke the previous record held by the classic Indonesian film Ibunda, directed by Teguh Karya, which won nine Citra Awards in 1986. The other categories in which Marlin triumphed were best original screenplay, best lead actress, best supporting actress, best cinematography, best production design, best editing, best music and best sound editing.

Other winners in Jakarta over the weekend were Gading Marten in the best actor category for Love for Sale, Nicholas Saputra for best supporting actor in Edwin's Aruna & Lidahnya, Si Juki the Movie for best animated feature and Yuda Kurniawan's The Grassroots Song as best documentary.

Marlina the Murderer premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2017 and is Indonesia's official submission in the best foreign-language film category for the 91st Academy Awards. To date, no Indonesian film has ever been shortlisted for the Oscars.

The film stars Marsha Timothy as the titular heroine, a widow whose rural home is set upon by bandits, with the leader of the gang perfunctorily announcing their plans to rape and rob her. Exhibiting enough grit and steely survival instinct to rival any hero — male or female — of a classic Hollywood Western, Marlina snatches the lives of her aggressors instead. But this successful self-defense only complicates her predicament in Indonesia's deeply patriarchal society.

In addition to Cannes, where Marlina was the first Indonesian feature to be shown at the festival in 12 years, the film also played at Toronto, Tokyo Filmex and the Sitges Film Festival. It won a best lead actress award in Sitges and the Grand Prize at Tokyo.

International sales company Asian Shadows has sold the film to more than 40 territories, including theatrical releases in U.S., U.K., Italy, Benelux and Canada. The film was recently picked up by Pandora for theatrical distribution in Japan in 2019.