Sunday, February 12, 2017


Film director Eric Ong talks to theSun about his first feature film Adiwiraku that tells a true story of a teacher making difference in the live of her students .... Read the full story here

 Headline: To Gigku With  Love 
By Bissme S

CHERYL ANN FERNANDO left the comfort of her home in Kuala Lumpur to teach English in a rural school in Sungei Petani, Kedah, from 2013 to 2015. She faced countless problems such as poverty, absenteeism, and family conflicts among her students. Despite all that, she was determined to help her students overcome their fear of speaking in English. To give them more
confidence, she set up an English Choral Speaking team to take part in a competition.
“She was teaching high school students who could not even spell properly,” says 52year-old Eric Ong, who was so inspired by her determination that he turned her struggles into a film, Adiwiraku.  The two-hour biopic opens in cinemas on March 9.
Ong adds: “Instead of just complaining and [trying to shift responsibility], she took matters into her own hands and found ways to change the situation for the better. Her story is very inspirational. 

"Today, our society is filled with critics and complainers. They are eager to point out the flaws in our system, in our laws, and in our society.  Criticism and complaints do not lead anywhere. We should be more like Cheryl Ann.
“Whenever we see a flaw, instead of just  complaining and  criticising, perhaps we should find  solutions to make the  situation better.”
Playing Cheryl Ann in Adiwiraku is local model and actress Sangeeta Krishnasamy. Others in the cast include Xavier Fong, Wan Azlyn, Farra Safwan, Ahmad Adnin Zidane, Irdina Tasmin, Balqis Sani, and Rizal Fahmi. Ong has also cast some of Cheryl Ann’s real-life students in the film.
“I [gave] them some acting workshops before they faced the camera,” he says.
“They were excited to be in the film. They were telling their own story. I was really satisfied with their performances.
“It’s a unique  experience for me to have people playing themselves in a biopic that I am directing. It is an experience that I will  treasure for the rest of my life.”
What about the real Cheryl Ann?
“She visited the set during filming,” Ong said.
“She was making sure my production team and I did not abuse her students (laughs).
“She cried after  watching the film. I am sure the  audience will cry, too.”
Ong recalls his favourite scene in Adiwiraku where a student, who has been missing Cheryl Ann’s classes for the last three months, suddenly reappears. The hardworking and brilliant student  easily catches up on what she has  missed in her absence.
“Then, the student goes missing again,” Ong says.
“This time, Cheryl Ann manages to track her  working at a gas station. She keeps reminding the girl about the importance of education in order for her to have a better future.
“Then, the student shocks Cheryl Ann with one question: ‘Have you ever gone without food for three days?’
“The student adds: ‘If I die from starvation, what future will I have?’ “Her answer leaves Cheryl Ann speechless. We cannot understand someone’s misery till we live in their shoes.”
Adiwiraku is Ong’s first feature film. He has more than 15 years of experience working in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia producing television programmes ranging across various genres. Ong studied films at Universiti Malaya. He has always wanted to be a filmmaker.
But it was his grandfather who first instilled the love for films in him. “During my school  holidays, I would stay with my grandfather,” says the Malaysian-born Ong, who has been living in Singapore for the last 10 years.  
“There was a cinema behind my grandfather’s house, so my grandfather and I would go watch films almost every day.”
The young Ong even befriended Ali, the cinema’s ticket collector, who secretly allowed him into the cinema for free several times.
“Ali even brought me to see what was going on behind the big screen,” he says.
“I even got to watch some movies ‘backwards’.”
Ong is now planning to direct his second feature film, another biopic that takes place in Sarawak. He refuses to reveal too much about the film, especially on its subject. 
“All I can say is that my film will highlight an inspiring story that touches on racial harmony,” he says with a smile.

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