THE first movie in the world to use the Penang Hokkien dialect, peppered with colloquial injections of English and Malay, is heading for the silver screen next year.
Written and directed by filmmaker Saw Teong Hin, the movie is called ‘Hai Ki Xin Lor: You Mean the World to Me’.
It has cinematographer Christopher Doyle managing the cameras and lighting crew.
Saw made a name for himself after directing ‘Puteri Gunung Ledang’ while Doyle was the cinematographer of over 30 Hong Kong and Taiwanese films including ‘Hero’ with Jet Li and Maggie Cheung in 2002.
The movie is produced by Leonard Tee, who has himself made waves in the local film industry.
His Kuala Lumpur film ‘I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone’ was banned in Malaysia in 2007 but premiered at the 2006 Venice International Film Festival and was nominated for several Golden Horse awards in Taiwan.
‘Hai Ki Xin Lor’ (the Hokkien name for Victoria Street) was a tear-jerking play shown at George Town Festival 2014.
Saw wrote it over five years ago but he kept it in his drawer because interested parties wanted it to be in Mandarin.
“There were offers to film it in Singapore and China but I kept saying no.
“This story needs to be filmed in Penang and it has to be told in Penang Hokkien,” he said in a press conference.
The crew finished filming the five-minute trailer in Penang on Tuesday.
It was shot at Chew Jetty, on a Penang ferry and in Teluk Bahang, Campbell Street, Carnarvon Road and Bandar Baru Air Itam.
Tee said the estimated budget was RM1.8 million and it would be a 100-minute movie.
“We are holding discussions with the Penang government, hoping it can finance part of the film.
“This movie will be shown as a unique foreign film in other lands,” he said.
The film will have a cast of 15 led by Penang-born actress Chelsia Ng and newcomer John Tan, who was born in Alor Setar but has lived in Penang for five years.
‘Hai Ki Xin Lor’ tells the story of Sunny, a filmmaker who returns to Penang to revisit his past as inspiration for his latest project. He visits his sister in the process and heartbreak abounds.
Sunny has a mentally ill older brother. His mother is very protective of the older son who is notorious for walking around half-naked.
The older boy is seen to be physically intimate with his mother in a daring and provocative scene.
In spite of one dark revelation after another in Sunny’s family, the movie has a redemptive ending that speaks of hope and forgiveness.
“The local movie world hasn’t seen a drama for some time.
“Too many people want action or comedy so I admit that this movie is a little out of step with the times.
“Yet, there is an honesty to this movie that is going to be refreshing,” Saw smiled.
Filming is expected to begin in May while the stage performance tour will begin in September.