'Ola Bola' director Chiu Keng Guan returns with Chinese New Year offering ‘Ma, I Love You’

Chiu Keng Guan returns to the local film scene with a touching movie about a mother and her daughter. Photo: Filepic

Malaysian director Chiu Keng Guan, who helmed The Journey and Ola Bola, is marking his return to the local film scene with his latest movie Ma, I Love You.

Chiu said at a recent press conference that he is proud of his latest work and is happy that it is finally being released on the big screen.

“I’m so glad to finally have the opportunity to create a movie in conjunction with Chinese New Year for all Malaysians six years later. Ma, I Love You is a very relatable film, especially for the younger generation.

“Everyone has different ways of loving someone, and the meaning of ‘sacrifice’ varies depending on the person. I feel that this movie perfectly depicts the different forms of love and sacrifice,” the director said.

Ma, I Love You – led by Ong Ai Leng and Siow Li Xuan – tells the story of single mother Bee Ling who’s very protective of her daughter Qiqi.

After discovering that Qiqi plans to escape her overbearing clutches by studying abroad in France, Bee Ling resorts to extreme ways to stay by her daughter’s side.

Chiu said that his experience directing the movie – which took roughly two and a half months to shoot – has been a meaningful one as he had the opportunity to explore a new parent-child relationship.

“In The Journey, I explored the relationship between father and daughter. In China, two years ago, I explored the father-son relationship with On Your Mark.

"This time around with Ma, I Love You, I explore the mother-daughter relationship,” he explained.

While it’s no secret that the mother-daughter relationship is a concept that has long existed in movie plots, Chiu said that he worked hard to make his movie stand out.

“I included lots of local elements. Even though it is a Chinese New Year film, there’s actually lots of languages spoken like Mandarin, Malay, and English.

"There are also cameos from popular Malaysian celebrities. I believe including all these languages and local icons will make the movie special for Malaysians,” he said.

Aside from local languages, French is also spoken in the film.

A scene from the trailer shows Bee Ling taking French lessons so she could accompany her daughter overseas.

Actresses Ong Ai Leng and Siow Li Xuan – who portray Bee Ling and Qiqi respectively – revealed that they both enrolled in a French language course to prepare for their roles.

“Megane Lenoir (a French teacher hailing from France) taught us some basic stuff like how to say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘I love you’ and so on.

"There was also a performance teacher on set who would make sure that our pronunciation was correct and that the expressions we made matched the words we said,” Ong shared, adding that it was challenging to learn a new language.

Siow Li Xuan (left) and Ong Ai Leng (right) both met up with each other every day for a month to build their chemistry for the roles. Photo: HandoutSiow Li Xuan (left) and Ong Ai Leng (right) both met up with each other every day for a month to build their chemistry for the roles. Photo: HandoutMeanwhile, Siow said in an interview that it was easy for her to catch up as she had studied French in secondary school. For her, the biggest challenge was getting back into acting after taking a seven-year hiatus to focus on her studies.

"I had to revisit my 18-year-old self and communicate with my inner child by writing letters to myself. It helped me get in the right frame of mind and prepare me for the role," the 22-year-old admitted.

Ong and Siow said they had a pleasant time working together.

In early August – before filming began – the two agreed to meet up and hang out everyday for a month so they could build their chemistry for the roles.

According to Ong, the two clicked right away due to their shared interest.

“It was easy to get along with Hazell (Siow) because she was so open and eager to share. I myself was also eager and hungry to share my interests. Everything felt so natural and not forced,” the 44-year-old Ong said.

Siow also commented: “I actually cried the first day I met her because she understood me so well. Even though we only knew each other for a few hours, it felt as if she knew my entire life story. She’s a very dear person to me now.”

The “mother-daughter pair” hopes that Ma, I Love You will do well as it is a “very meaningful and powerful” film that can bring families closer in the Chinese New Year season.

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