Due to the convenience of VOD (Video on Demand) and the improved home theater system, we rarely visit a cinema compared to the past. You paid 30 over bucks to iTunes for once, you can let your children watch The Boss Baby for hundred times. You don’t need to buy tickets for the whole family and get your kids dressed up to go to a cinema. Moreover, when they want to pee-pee you can just pause the movie.
All the cinemas in Malaysia will only be crowded for two reasons, one is when there is a new Star Wars movie, another one is when Chiu Keng Guan’s movie is screening. You might not recognize his name, but you must have at least heard of his films. Ola Bola, The Journey, Great Day, Woo Hoo, I bet you heard all of them.
How do Chiu’s films continuously break the box office records in Malaysia? What is the charisma of his films?
# Stories about Malaysians
The story plot is always the most important element in a film. All the stories in Chiu’s films are either about the life and cultures of Malaysians or about the histories of Malaysia.
The Neglected Tradition – Woo Hoo
We are familiar with Lion Dance, but have you heard of Tiger Dance? In the movie Woo Hoo, the story was set in a fishing village, Kampung Beserah in Pahang. The villagers in this kampung have an old tradition where they need to perform the Tiger Dance every sixty years to appreciate the blessing of the Goddess of Sea.
The story shows the transformation of the youngsters in the village from not knowing anything about this tradition to picking up the dance and finally made the Tiger Dance Ceremony happened. They encountered a lot of challenges and conflicts during the preparation, but at the end, they reunited and made a great show.
The film not only introduced the neglected tradition – Tiger Dance to the audiences, it also made everyone realized that we must cherish our cultures and tradition.
The Unforgettable Glories of Harimau Malaya – Ola Bola
Ola Bola is a semi factual film inspired by the glories of the Malaysia national football team, Harimau Malaya which successfully entered the 1980 Summer Olympics.
Although the production team has modified some of the historical facts for more dramatic effects, the film reconstructed the whole atmosphere of Malaysia in 1980. We can see how some people sneaked into the stadium’s crowds to watch the match, we can also see how funny the commentator described the match, all these scenes are very real.
Most importantly, it is a film that shows the unity of Malaysians regardless we are from different races.
# Down-to-Earth Local Actors
Unlike most filmmakers who would usually cast professional and famous actors, Chiu is well known to have a preference for amateurs and non-actors. There are mainly non-actor celebrities from Astro’s popular radio and TV channels in Woo Hoo and Great Day, while the major roles are given to amateurs in The Journey and Ola Bola.
Instead of using professional and pretty actors, Chiu chose to cast amateurs that suit the characters. In my opinion, this preference is the major factor in the success of his films. As audiences, we felt related because all the actors are normal people like us.
The lead actor of The Journey, Frankie Lee has won the 27th Malaysia Film Festival award for Best Actor for his first movie debut. Frankie Lee, aged 76, used to run a business renting out movie props. He never thought that one day he would become a movie star. After the release of The Journey, Frankie Lee was invited to appear in shows and commercials.
Instead of using famous actors, Chiu’s team created famous stars.
# The Best Marketing Strategy – Involvement of Public
Besides his unique preference on choosing casts, one of the most interesting points in his films is the hot air balloon in The Journey.
In The Journey, Uncle Chuan (played by Frankie Lee) and his friend were trying to complete their dead friend’s dream, which is to build a huge hot air balloon using recycled plastic bags. The production team really created the hot air balloon by using over 10,000 recycled plastic bags contributed by the people all over the country.
This is a very gung-ho action, because it took a lot of time, efforts, and manpower to make the whole hot air balloon. At the same time, it is a wise act because it involved a lot of public. Those who involved in this project would definitely bring all their friends and family to support the movie upon screening.
# Dedicated to Malaysians
Chiu’s films are targeted to all people in this country. All his movies are about Malaysians, produced and performed by Malaysians, and dedicated to Malaysians.
Chiu always wishes that his productions can touch Malaysians’ hearts. He once said, “We have beautiful landscapes, interesting stories and we are proud being Malaysians. I hope I can do something for these.”
It is a beautiful thought, and a lot of efforts contributed.
It is the Semangat Cinta Malaysia!
Last month, a public audition was held in Sunway Pyramid for the casts of Chiu’s new movie that is expected to be screened during the Chinese New Year in 2018.
I couldn’t wait to watch it in the cinema!
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