Merantau (2009) [Merantau Warrior (2009)] is an Indonesian martial arts action, drama film written, directed and edited by Gareth Evans and is Evans’ first major feature film.
The film stars Iko Uwais in his acting debut, and it is the first collaboration between director Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais. Merantau (2009) also debut Yayan Ruhian as an actor. Merantau (2009) also features actors Donny Alamsyah and Alex Abbad who, along with Uwais and Ruhiyan, who will later appear in Gareth Evans’ films, The Raid (2011) and The Raid 2 (2014).
Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian met Gareth Evans while Evans was in Indonesia shooting for a documentary called, The Mystic Arts of Indonesia: Pencak Silat, which was to became Evans introduction to the Pencak Silat martial art.
The film tells the story of a young man experiencing “Merantau”. This rite of passage tradition is practiced by the Minangkabau, a people who live in the Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia, and whose inheritance is largely matriarchal. In this rite of passage, a young man leaves his home to get experience outside of the village or to pursue a career.
Yuda (Iko Uwais) leaves his village in hopes of teaching Silat in Jakarta, only to be confronted with human trafficking when he attempts to save a girl from being kidnapped. Yuda (Iko Uwais) practices a style of Silat known as “Silek Harimau” or Tiger Silat.
Merantau (2009) premiered at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in South Korea on July 23, 2009, before it was released theatrically on August 6, 2009 in Indonesia. It premiered in the United States at the Austin Fantastic Fest on September 24, 2009 where it won the Audience Award. It won the Jury Award for Best Film at the inaugural 2010 ActionFest in North Carolina.