Monday, July 29, 2013

The New Village & Wong Kew Lit

Currently there is a huge spotlight on the Malaysian Chinese made   movie The New Village. Initially the movie is supposed to be hit the cinemas in Aug 22, 2013. Now the authorities has postponed  the movie from releasing to the cinemas because they felt the movie might glorify communism.  
theSun had managed to interview the director of the film  Wong Kew Lit last year ( 2012)  when camera just began shooting on the film.  The article appears in theSun on March 16, 2012 . I dig up my  old truck  and managed find this old  article. Interestingly,  the director had  addressed the issue of communism in the film and the reason motivated him to direct this film . I am  reproducing the interview theSun had carried with the director  last year.   

March 16, 2012 
Headline : Rekindling  The Past 
By Bissme S  

A story of forbidden love set amidst the backdrop of the Malaya Emergency era forms the premise of Wong Kew Lit’s first foray into directing a feature film.
The 41-year-old award-winning director, who has helmed numerous documentaries and television  shows, wants to use this Chinese film to enlighten the younger generation on the sacrifices the early Chinese settlers had to make in order to continue living in a country they had grown to love.
The New Village 1949 is set during the Malayan Emergency when the country is still in the midst  of a guerrilla war after the end of World War II. Once allies  against the Japanese invading 
force, British Commonwealth troops are now battling the Malayan People’s Anti- Japanese Army which has been reformed as the Malayan People’s Liberation  Army intent on kicking out these colonialists.
The female protagonist in the story is only 18 years old when her whole family is forced into a resettlement camp in a new village. This is part of the colonial  government’s strategies under 
the Briggs Plan (named after General Sir Harold Briggs, the British Army’s director of  operations in Malaya) to cut local support for the ‘insurgents’.
During this chaotic period, the girl falls in love with a man who has retreated into the jungle to fight against the colonial forces. The two young people defy the 
strict rules of the new village to establish a relationship. Playing the leads are modelturned- actor Kevin Soo and Miss Astro Chinese International 2011 Leena 
Lim. Shooting for this movie, which started last week, will be carried out over 30 days. The film, budgeted at RM3 million, is expected to be released before the end of the year.
Wong, who has been in show business for more than 15 years, shares his thoughts on his maiden movie in this exclusive interview. 

* What is your aim of making this film?

Much of what had happened in the past is not written in our history books. They became untold stories and one of them concerns the establishment of new  villages in Malaya.
The new villages were first set up in 1949. The British opened 480 such villages all over Malaya and forced some half a million Chinese folks living close to the jungles to relocate there in 
order to cut off food and medical supplies to the communists. The British then destroyed the people’s homes so that they could not return. Many people thought those new villages were just like any other normal villages, but they were  wrong.These families were actually put into trucks and brought to a piece 
of vacant land, surrounded by a fence, that was alien to them. They did not get enough food and could only be out of the camp between 6am and 3pm. They had no freedom at all.
I want to tell the younger Chinese generation that the life they are enjoying now is the result  of the sacrifices made by their forefathers. We must appreciate what they had done. The film 
shows they did what they had to do because they loved this land very much. 

* You made this movie because you wanted to show how much the Chinese loved this country. Yet certain quarters consider the Chinese as pendatang (immigrants). How do you feel about this?

I was born here. I’m sad some people consider us as pendatang but I’m not angry. Anger is useless … it only leads to conflicts and nothing good ever comes out of it.
I feel the word pendatang prevents Malaysians from being united. If people understand our history, then perhaps none will call us pendatang. The Chinese have been in this land long before independence. Chinese schools have been around for more than 200 years. We helped fight for the independence of this country. We helped to build this nation.

* Some see these communists as heroes who started a revolution while others see them as enemies of the state. How do you view them?

We have different ways of interpreting history. My interpretation is that the Emergency era was a chaotic period in our history and there were no heroes. Everyone was doing his or herbest to survive and to protect this land. In the history of any nation, there are lots of sad and dark moments. But what’s important is forgiveness. We need to forgive each other – even our enemies. Only then can we carry on with our lives. But we must never forget our history.

*Historical films usually do not pull in the crowd, especially the younger generation. How do you think The New Village 1949 will fare?

This is not a historical film. History is just the background. This is a love story between two people who are separated by the fence of a new village and the political climate of the country. It’s just like Titanic. The director had used the history (of the sinking ship) to tell a forbidden love story and I’m doing the same thing here.