Boi Kwong pulls off `The Days'

I conclude there must be 2 bumper seasons in local films this year. First there were the 10 over feature lengths films premiering at SIFF. Come August, when the nation gets happy that the next public holiday is here again (and patriotic too!), there will a second sludge of local movies.

Just to name some.... The Days, Kallang Roar, 12 Lotus, Money No Enough 2, Sing to The Dawn.

The cannibalism is not going to be pretty and it is a survival of the prettiest (Am sure they are all gorgeous!) While MNE2 will surely burst the box office, let me do my part for the rest.

First up is “歲月 THE DAYS” which is a local gangster tale between two brothers, set between 1989 and 1990. In a misguided effort to teach BABY (IVAN LIM 林殿文) independence, and to make him feel protected, ZI LONG (JUSTIN CHAN 陳嘉健) brings him into his own gang of delinquents, introducing him to a very dark world.

The director is Boi Kwong who has over 10 years of experience in film production. He graduated from Temasek Polytechnic as the top student and recipient of an AVID scholarship. He then persued his Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications from the Curtin University of Technology, Australia. He received the Special Jury Prize award in SIFF in 2000 and has since worked with acclaimed production houses on television commercials, music videos and feature film projects. Currently, he is a lecturer at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East. Boi also volunteers with the Prison Service teaching screen writing and video production to the inmates at the Kaki Bukit prison school. This film has taken him years to prepare and is his feature film debut.

While you can read all about the movie on I wanted to ask Boi (the director) personally my set of questions about why another Ah beng/gangster movie?

Boi (B): Pardon me for my bad english for this Q & A- Ah beng ma. :p
Jeremy (J): What inspired u to make this? (totally not expecting this outpouring!)
B: My younger brother actually – I have always wanted to make this film for him because I never had the courage to tell him how much I cared for him. In fact I have many friends who are going through the same situation as myself having brought their own brothers into gangs, some of whom have left leaving their brothers still caught within. And I believe many of us who were brought up in a traditional Chinese family are facing this same problem - of not being able to express what we really feel and regretting some of the actions we once made.... And I also wanted to relived the Ah beng self in myself through this movie. Haha... because I am now a lecturer and not "suppose" to be an Ah-Beng – but I am – Just like many other successful bankers, teacher and officers I know.
J: Is it true to real life? Cos I am not sure if there are such organised undergrounds in Singapore.
B: I would say 75% of the story are actual events and all the charcters are actual people that I've met and some that I still keep in contact with. Names have been changed of course. In fact, I thought we were more fierce in real life, even until today these group are still around but in a different form.
J: Don't you think there have been enough gangster films?
B: I feel that there can never be enough gangster films, just like action films and even romantic films. I guess we are always fascinated with the unknown world, especially in Singapore. We are too "protected" from the world. To my surprise, I used to have a Hong Kong friend who told me he thinks that Singapore gangsters are fiercer then Hong Kong's. He followed by saying that the fact that Singapore is so strict and law-abiding and still gangsters still exist, we must be very fierce..haha.

J: It sounds very ambitious with so many characters...must have been challenging to write the script. was it?
B: Indeed challenging. However, I think the film will not be realistic if there are limited characters because this is what gangs are all about - friends, women, brothers, enemies... And all this characters contribute to the texture and characteristic of the story.
J: What are some of your favourite characters?
B: In real life, my favourites are Shan Shan, "Dog" and "Cockroach" who I am still in contact with, they are my very good friends. In the film I like everyone but if I have to choose a least favourite it has to be "Rat", played by Jason Ho, because he is extremely irriating as the bad guy. And because Jason tries so hard it makes it even more believable...haha... I think there will be people who will like the bad guys, Jason did a good job.

J: What interesting challenges or episodes did you experience during shoot?
B: I must say it is Mas Selamat's escape from the prison. Just one day before we commence our shoot, we recieved news of his escape and one of my actors Derrick R. who plays "Dog" is serving his National Service and he was activated to serve the nation as the advance party for the search team. Although he was given clearence from Mindef and his camp, he had to leave our set for his activation. It was tough as we has to reorganize our schedule to suit his timing. And everyday was a surprise as we do not know what is happening the next day or what we are shooting the next day. But we learned to pull through the obstacles.Next I guess is the challenge of transforming my "Ang Mo Pai" actors like Ivan who plays "Baby" and Adora who plays "Valerie" to speak Mandarin and Hokkien in an Ah-Beng-Ah-Lian manner. It was really tough but they tried their best and I am so proud of them.
J: What is the selling point of the film?
B: The cause of the film. First time actors who are really handsome and pretty. Real action fight scenes from the young actors. And the to Ah Beng within everyone of us.
J: How should we tell our friends if we want to persuade them to watch this film?
B: Wah liao! That show the Days got "Chio Bu" "Yan Dao" actors and fighting damm siat ah!

The Days Trivia:
1. “歲月 The Days” was shot in 30 days mostly in Jurong where the director grew up. Most of the location based film uses the actual places where events took place.
2. Over 400 extras were used for the production, mostly students from the Institute of Technical Education where the director Boi Kwong lectures. None are actual gang members. 3. The tangki scene in the film is an actual street procession that happens only once every 5 years in Singapore.
4. The countdown fireworks scene was shot on 31st December 2007, the cast and crew waited since 1pm and shot the scene with over 2000 thousand bystanders in the background at the stroke of midnight.
5. Adele Wong (Shan Shan) and Adora Wong (Valerie) are real life sisters.
6. The motorbike used in the film is a decommissioned actual gang bike infamous in the 1990s – it comes with a matching helmet.
7. Over 20 pagers and a very rare Call Zone phone were used for authenticity.
8. The high fashion pieces used in the film are originals obtained from friends and Ebay. The most expensive wardrobe item is a Versace handbag that cost over S$5000.
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