光 // Guang: Director Quek Shio Chuan shares his own story

Be kind, Be Guang!


Guang, by filmmaker Quek Shio Chuan, starring actors Kyo Chen and Ernest Chong, is a film about an autistic man and his relationship with his brother who is feeling the burden of supporting him. The film was commercially released in Malaysia in November last year and has just started its commercial run in Singapore on 15 March 2019. It has been nominated for awards in several overseas film festivals and it also picked up two awards at the 13th Chinese Youth Generation Film Forum in Wuhan, China, namely Best New Director and Best New Actor. 


Guang takes on brotherly bonding and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) to a different note, one that not just focusses on the struggles but also with a healthy dose of humour. The main inspiration for Guang comes from Quek’s brother, who himself lives with ASD. In particular, the film achieved a high level of authenticity with the autistic brother, Guang's (played by Kyo Chen) fascination with particular sound pitches, to the point of having special audiophile abilities, as well as his mannerisms. Setting the mood for the story is the cinematography which evokes a certain heaviness, and the streets of Kuala Lumpur looks a little gloomier than usual. Other than Kyo's winning performance as Guang, Ernest Chong, who played Didi, the caretaker brother, also depicts emotional burnout accurately. Also notable is Emily Chen's portrayal of Sue Ann, a friend of Guang's who takes genuine interest in Guang's interest in sound.




Here is our interview with the actors and director

Kyo Chen
SINdie (S): Your performance was very good as Guang and very relatable, because I know people who have PSD. Some of the mannerisms were very well done like the stuttering and the audio--sensory sound.

Kyo: It’s because I am a bit autistic. (laughs) Just kidding. I actually did a lot of homework and I spent some time with the director’s brother. In 2011, he shot the short film first. So I already knew him. But I could not out the director’s brother is a bit different and I had to study one relative of mine.

 
S: Are there any places you had to go to observe autistic people?

Kyo: I watched a lot of movies with autistic characters and we also went to some autistic centres as well. On his end, I have seen him do shows with kids with autism.
 


Ernest Chong

S: Some of the humour in the film is very local and may have a different effect on different people. Can you discuss this a little?
 
Ernest: I feel Singaporeans are typically very systematic. So they will relate to the more routine situations, and that's where we can make them laugh more. It's a release for them as I feel Singaporeans are usually very repressed. This is different compared with Malaysia or even China. For China, the main problem is the culture. They don’t understand Malaysian culture or language. They get the point but the level is not the same.

S: Yes it is interesting to think different people think differently as well. I can’t really identify the differences between what Malaysians and Singaporeans find funny in the movie. Maybe the Mahjong scene? I found that quite funny from just reading the subtitles.

Ernest: This is something I love about Malaysian culture, where Indians can speak Hakka or Chinese. In fact, the Indian character’s Cantonese is better than the younger brother who is Chinese.

S: Is it because the story is based in Johor where they speak more Teochew and Hokkien?

Ernest: So this is the interesting aspect about Malaysian culture that the China audience cannot appreciate because they speak one language and one slang.

Director Quek Shio Chuan

S: You did the short film in 2011. What made you decide to turn it into a feature film?

Quek: I have always wanted to be a filmmaker. To be a filmmaker, you need to take steps and there are many different ways. I was born and bred in commercials. I was with this company called Reservoir Production for nine years and that’s where I found my opportunities. I was a commercial director and what I had to do was to develop a showreel. It was a chicken and egg problem. Clients won’t give you jobs unless you had a reel and you won’t have a reel unless clients gave you jobs, unless your production house gives you support. So my production house decided to support me because it was a chance to demonstrate how we can tell stories. So in 2011, we sat down to think of ideas and Guang was the idea that was closest to my heart, which is how we sat down and got on to making that short film. Of course, after that, I got to make a lot of commercials and finally it came to a point when we wanted to make a feature film. We explored various genres, but then we thought Guang was a short film that had such good audience reception and there were so many more things we wanted to tell about Guang. And if there was one idea that we want to use, that would be Guang.

S: I under the production took more than a year and there were some retakes of the film. Would there be any director’s cuts?

The reason why we had some reshoots was because she showed some distributors the film edit and they thought it was a little too flat and it wont appeal to the masses. And to be honest after making those changes, I prefer the new version. So I would not say the earlier version was the Director’s Cut. It was a work-in-progress in getting there.



S: Would you be doing more films of this genre or any other genres you are looking at?

Quek: I am open to all genres. Guang is a very personal film, where two brother talk almost the entire my own film. I would love to explore something more extravagant if I may. Maybe something more appealing to the masses like horror or action. In fact, now I am shooting a Mandarin series with Netflix called ‘Ghost Bride’. So as you can tell, very different. But if there is something similar to Guang which has a positive message for society, yes I would love to do it, if I get the chance.

S: What I find different about Guang that is there are moments that are very intense and yet there are other moments that are very light-hearted as well. How do you gel them so well? A lot of these types of films are usually uniformly dramatic and intense.

Quek: For me, Guang drew from the times I spent with my own brother and it is a real life story. With your brother, you can quarrel with him one day and be ok the next day. This is someone you need to spend your whole life with. So this is what I wanted to portray. It should not be all about pity. It is more than that, which is why we wanted to include the whole spectrum of experiences.

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GUANG 《光》had its gala premiere at The Cathay on 07 March 2019, with Society Staples, Very Special Arts Singapore, The HEART Enteprise, and Ministry of Bellz gracing the event with booths and performances.
The cast of Guang, as well as the hosts for the Gala Premiere at The Cathay on 07 March 2019
Gala Premiere at The Cathay
Director Quek Shio Chuan speaking at the Gala Premiere


Actor Ernest Chong (left) speaking, Director Quek Shio Chuan (centre), and Actor Kyo Chen (right) at the Gala Premiere


(left to right) Cast of Guang: Actor Ernest Chong, Director Quek Shio Chuan, and Actor Kyo Chen at the Gala Premiere

Ernest Chong giving a thumbs up for the 'Be Kind, Be Guang' campaign during the Gala Premiere
Gala Premiere photos displayed above are courtesy of mm2 entertainment pte ltd.


 
MM2 Donation Drive for every ticket bought to see Guang

mm2 Entertainment Pte Ltd is pleased to announce that they are partnering with Cathay Cineplexes, Golden Village and EagleWings Cinematics to donate $1 from every movie ticket sold for award-winning autism awareness film GUANG 《光》to Community Chest.

Written by Varun Naidu
 

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