The former editor-in-chief of the now defunct Playboy Indonesia talks about his new life, as well as the books and film he penned during his incarceration.
A chat with Erwin Arnada at a Kemang’s hangout was an enthralling experience, to say the least. Erwin has a laidback and outgoing personality and seems to be very tolerable person in his appraisal of the cultural differences that exist around the world. Ironically, his open-minded approach to life also managed to land him in prison.
In 2010, Erwin was sentenced to two years imprisonment for allegedly distributing indecent photographs in Playboy Indonesia, the now defunct magazine he used to helm. With a genial smile, he explains that his jail term was politically motivated to appease the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).
As public has noticed, Playboy Indonesia did not feature any photographs of nude women. In fact, the magazine was tailored to fit in with the country’s cultural norms and featured plenty of lifestyle articles and sophisticated wordplay. The proof is in the pudding, though. Playboy Indonesia won two Sampoerna Adiwarta Awards at the prestigious Indonesian journalism event.
As our discussion started to touch on more intimate topics, Erwin expresses his gratitude to the supreme Court of Indonesia for reducing his sentence to eight-and-a-half months after a successful appeal.
A free man since June last year, the 49-year-old Erwin says that his time behind bars was the start of him opening the first page of new life. In prison, he wrote three books and a film script. Having lived in Bali, Erwin was in Jakarta for editing process of the film based on his own scripts.
Titled “Rumah di Seribu Ombak” (House of a Thousand Waves), it is one of the three books I wrote in the prison. It is based on one of the three books I wrote in prison. The book tells the true story of friendship and tolerance between Muslim and Hindu children in Singaraja, Bali. The novel was published a few month ago, and it is currently being made into a film. The production started in November last year.
Mind elaborating a little more on what you meant by a true story?
I actually know the two kids. Samihi (the Muslim) and Wayan Manik (the Hindu). I talked to them and tried to get to know them a little better. The irony is that Wayan has been the victim of paedophilia. Knowing what has happened to his friend, Samihi does not look down on his friend, but instead offering him moral support so that Wayan can move on with his life. They are only in their early teens now, but I’m aware that there are many adults who can learn a great moral lesson from this inspiring pair. Speaking of paedophilia, did you know that there are quite many children who have become victims in Bali, especially in the Singaraja area. I’m hoping that my film will create awareness among the general public that there is more to Bali than the paradise island. (muse)
Is this your first film?
I have produced eleven films altogether, but “Rumah di Seribu Ombak” is the first that I have been in charge of as a director.
When will the film be released?
And what of the other two books that you penned in prison?
The second book, “Midnite di Negeri Nonsense” (Midnight in the Land of Nonsense), has also been published. However, the third, “Rabbit Versus Goliath”, is only sold in the United States. What I can say is that both books contain moral critiques of our country’s complicated and corrupt legal system.
Well, I changed the magazine’s paradigm, different from the original version. But look what happened. This country is still blanketed with injustice and narrow mindedness. So, the answer is no. I don’t think I want to take another risk.
What are your future plans?
I tied the knot with Hevie last November. We both are into the media realm. And together, we have opened a new page of life. Upon my release from prison, I’ve been a media consultant in several publications, with the help of Hevie of course. Film making is another thing I want to focus on.
Let’s talk about food. Are you considered yourself foodie?
I can eat anything as long as it is halal. But my most favourite place to eat is Soto Jakarta Bang Madun in Barito, South Jakarta. Every time I visit the town, that’s the first place I have in my mind.
What about your favourite destinations?
I often choose something different and not to follow the mainstream. I have visited many places worldwide, but South America, especially Venezuela and Columbia, is where I can enjoy the travel. I like being in a place surrounded by ocean, river and paddy field. In Indonesia, Singaraja is my favourite. (grin).
By Aulia R. Sungkar. Published in Jakarta Java Kini Magazine, April 2012.