Sarawak director Bjarne Wong fulfills his dreams with ‘The Prodigal Son’
By Jude Toyat
Sarawak film director Bjarne Wong has always dreamed of producing educational movies for the youth of Malaysia which was fulfilled with the birth of his new movie entitled ‘The Prodigal Son’ released in August this year.
Driven by the tagline, ‘Sarawak Boleh’, Bjarne, a prominent figure in the local entertainment and film industry regards the movie as his dearest baby which is “very close to my heart”.
The recipient of Most Promising Director and Best Film award at the 20th Film Festival Malaysia in 2007 is proud to have another Sarawak movie being born here as it was also a good opportunity for him to highlight several issues faced by the younger generation.
“With the birth of ‘The Prodigal Son’, I hope I can help to disseminate the message of not getting people involved with drugs and other bad influences, especially among the teenagers today,” he said when met by The Borneo Post SEEDS recently.
‘The Prodigal Son’ tells a story about four best friends brought together by fate. After one of them dies in a fight they started in a bar under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the remaining three flee the scene to save their own skins.
The incident not only impacts the boys’ lives, but also those they hold dear. As things start to escalate, the runaway boys now have the grave decision of whether they should choose to turn themselves in and pleaded themselves guilty; or choose to continue living life on the run.
Talking about the seventh movie under his direction, Bjarne also hopes that the local Sarawak movie production can send a message of love among family and loved ones.
“Today’s world is changing. There are lots of negative influences out there face by our people no matter whom or where we are. The fact that people are concerned about the topic of drug abuse by many of today’s youngsters reflect the increasing rebellious and curious nature found in the younger generation today. This is what has been my inspiration to do this movie.
“This movie focuses on the love and relationship between people as well as how humans may reform and transform from their bad behaviours,” he explained.
“I just wish to remind everyone that no matter how bad things may be in our life, there will always be someone who loves us. Home is where we belong, and our family should always be made as our first priority, do not break their hearts,” he said adding that he also had serious concerns about problem kids and those who give up on life and commit suicide.
“I saw many people gave up in life, some even kill themselves. It is because they felt that no one loved them anymore.
“Do remember that your family will always be there for you, and no matter how busy you may be in life, get some time to go home and spend some quality time with your loved ones, maybe do some gatherings with family and friends at home,” Bjarne added.
Bjarne was also awarded the Excellent Achievement in Film Production & Drama award in 2009 by Anugerah Perdana Seniman, as well as being one of the recipients of the 29th Top Ten Outstanding Malaysian Youth Award in 2011.
The inspiring, heart-warming and educational family-oriented movie uses digital cameras for filming.
Simultaneously, will also be shooting at local venues such as Kuching. In doing so, introducing the beauty of the hornbill state and its natural rainforest.
Shot entirely in Kuching, Sarawak, the movie showcases the beautiful city, the natural rainforest, as well as its diverse cultures to the audience –making you, as the audience, feel “at home”.
It features famous names including Tan Hau Yan, Zac, Smyth Wong, Lai Meng, Lim Ching Miau, Cindy Chen, Rabbit Chen, Lynn Lim, Samuel Ngu, and Ashley Foo.
According to Bjarne’s younger brother Smyth, 34, who acted in six films directed by his older brother said that his character in ‘The Prodigal Son’ is a spoiled brat who drags his friends from school to go smoke, drink alcohol, and take drugs.
“My parents focus more on their career rather than their children, leaving me and my older brother – who is a gangster and a drug dealer – to do more harm than good,” said Smyth describing his character in the movie.
Smyth pointed out that the challenging part for him in the movie was the fight scene.
“I don’t really fight in the movies I act, so I do consider that as one of the challenging parts in that movie, but still it was very interesting. We started the shooting for that particular scene at 8pm and ended it around 3 am,” he added.
Apart from fighting, Smyth was also out of his depth in the crying scene.
“Luckily, the actress (Irene Tam) who acted as my mother in that movie really knows how to cry. Although I tried my very best to shed tears I have yet to master the art of crying. It was somehow hilarious as me and the other casts were helping each other to do our best in the crying scenes in that movie,” Smyth, who is also a fashion designer, added.
Meanwhile, for actress Lynn Lim, who acted as a granddaughter to actress Lai Meng and an older sister to actor Tan Hau Yan who lost their parents in the movie, the crying scenes was also another part she regarded as a challenge that she found interesting.
“In this movie, I cried a lot. Growing up together with our grandmother, we became very attached to each other but when my little brother get himself involved with trouble we slowly change to become a miserable family with our grandmother nearly having her memory loss,” the Miss Universe Malaysia 2014 finalist explained.
Lynn, 26, who is also an undergraduate student at UCSI University Kuala Lumpur in psychology degree programme, has also acted in several Chinese dramas on NTV7.
“This is my first experience in an educational movie and also working with Bjarne. He is a very patient person in making his actors and actress into stars give us a lot of acting advice.
“Through this movie, I wish to tell people that drugs can destroy a person’s life. I am very happy to be in this movie which has a lot of positive messages to the younger generation. We can learn the wrongdoings in this movie without even experiencing it on our own,” she added.
As for a young actor like Tan Hau Yan, the fact that he has to act as a ‘bad boy’ has been quite a big challenge for him, especially since he had to pretend that he was a smoker when he wasn’t one in real life.
He plays a teenager who knows how to keep secrets from his grandmother.
“I act like a good boy in front of my grandmother, but when she is not around, I mingle around with friends who love to skip classes, smoke, and take drugs. Even when I say I am doing revision in my room, I am actually watching porn,” he added.
He added that he is very happy for being given the chance to work with Bjarne.
“This is my first time working with Bjarne. I have acted in several Chinese dramas before but I still consider this as another new experience for me. I am very happy working under his tutelage,” said the actor, who won several awards including Best Newcomer Award and Most Popular Actor Award in the NTV7 Golden Award in 2014.
Tan Hau Yan is currently working with his upcoming act in a new drama called ‘October’ by Astro.
He added, “The general public, especially the younger generation must watch this movie because it contains lots of educational material. Regardless of age, I am sure everyone can relate to the movie. This is a movie that actually moves us.”
“The Prodigal Son” was premiered during an appreciation show at Star Cineplex on August 12.