STOP10 Apr 2017: 'Adiwiraku' by Eric Ong
Coming in at a solid 2 hours, Adiwiraku is Eric Ong's heavyweight debut. Based on the real life story of two "Teach for Malaysia" teachers who teach English to their students in a kampung school, it follows their preparation to win the local district's English choral speaking competition, while dealing with the students' social and financial needs.
Cheryl Ann Fernando: real one on the left, reel one on the right
Translated as "My Superheroes", Adiwiraku focuses on Cheryl Ann Fernando and the 35 students she recruits as her "superheroes" for the choral competition. We follow her first day at school with its attendant teething issues to her last day as she bids a tearful adieu to pursue her further studies.
While it is admirable that Eric has attempted to portray historical fact as faithfully as possible, even casting some of the main students as themselves, it sometimes causes the film to waver as real life is never as neat as in the movies; which unfortunately rears up throughout this film.
For example, Cheryl's colleague, Constant Wong is rarely portrayed independently in this film, being at best a sounding board for Cheryl or at worst, comic relief. A pity really, given that male teachers are in short supply and could benefit from being promoted. Still, as a enthusiastic young educator, he does bring in some positive energy to this film.
Such energy is needed given the various socio-economic struggles portrayed in this film. From mental-illness to poverty, quite a few issues are mentioned. I describe them as mentioned rather than discussed because although they are given airtime and quite poignant, the solutions and problems are never really quite thoroughly explored. Perhaps because the film attempted to be historically accurate and risk embarrassing the families portrayed, or maybe Eric in this case had gone for breadth rather than depth. Nonetheless some sustained imagination as to how teachers and schools overcome these obstacles would have made their efforts all the more laudable.
Coming back to the main plot and actress of the film though, Sangeeta Krishnasamy who plays Cheryl, never falters as the young teacher who believes in the potential of her students. With a heart as firm as Mother Theresa's, she dispenses advice and encouragement to her students, pushing on with naive optimism against the obstacles that they face. A feel-good story about kampung schools made good, this story adds to the global body of films about how education is able to change the lives of the poor and underprivileged.
Why should Singaporeans care about it? Simply because the issues portrayed in our neighbouring country are as real as it gets in Singapore. Not having had an update on our education system since the "I Not Stupid" series, which is more than 10 years old, it is a timely reminder of issues that underprivileged students still face in our schools. Furthermore, Eric is a Singaporean director, despite being based in Malaysia and has worked on numerous Suria TV programs.
Written by Jenson Chen
Distributed by DLUX Entertainment, yhe film started its run in late March and will continue to have some screenings in April. Check out these screening timings:
11 April 2017, Tues, 3pm
12 April 2017, Wed, 2.30pm
Carnival Cinemas, 100 Beach Road Shaw Towers
For those who don't know, Carnival Cinema is the largest cinema chain in India and they opened their first overseas cinema in Singapore in October 2016.
For more information, large bookings and availability, please contact DLUX Entertainment at email@example.com.
Special promotion for educators, teachers and students! Come on down to Carnival Cinemas with a group of 5 and more and enjoy Adiwiraku at $7 only! Usual price $10.
Check out the film trailer here:
For the full list of April 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.