More than a decade after his feature directorial debut “The Days” (2008) filmmaker Boi Kwong is back in the director’s chair with Singapore crime thriller “Geylang.”
The film premiered at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and will have its Southeast Asia premiere at the Singapore International Film Festival in the Panorama strand.
In the film, on the eve of election nomination day, an aid worker, pimp, sex worker, doctor, cigarette seller and political candidate cross paths on the neon-drenched streets of Singapore’s notorious red-light district, Geylang.
The film is produced by Singaporean superstar Jack Neo’s J Team Productions (“Ah Girls Go Army”) and local firm MM2 Entertainment (“Precious is the Night”).
“No filmmaking journey is easy. My first feature film was back in 2008. It was a youthful effort and the beginning of my love affair with the medium. The film industry in Singapore back then was not ready to support first-time filmmakers, and it took me 13 years to get back on the saddle. Together with my two then-producers, we invested our personal funds and even took out a bank loan to complete the film. We paid a hefty lesson, hence I have learn that it is important to make every cent count and be responsible to my investors,” Kwong told Variety.
In the interim, Kwong produced several films, including “Zombiepura” and “Number 1.”
“The one takeaway I have is that a critically-good, commercially successful film is not necessarily tagged to a generous budget. I personally strive to make a decent film on a modest budget, using a combination of creativity and intelligence,” Kwong said.
About “Geylang,” Kwong said, “I have always been inclined toward genre films that deal with the underbelly and unseen parts of society. With ‘Geylang,’ I want to pay homage to my favourite directors such as Johnnie To, Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Kim Jee-woon, all of whom have greatly influenced my filmmaking journey. This film is a dramatization of my own life’s journey and real experiences.”
“An essential goal is to lead audiences to discuss the social concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ I want to say that in life, there is no moral black and white – that morally, we are only many shades of grey. ‘Geylang’ is intended as a revival of the neo-noir crime thriller genre; one that unveils the hidden social tensions and the steamy underbelly of human nature,” Kwong added. “This film was made to share with international audiences, as well as Singaporeans. I hope that global audiences will be titillated by the glimpse of a Singapore that will never appear in a tourism ad. All the crimes and events in the plot were inspired by actual news stories in Geylang.”
The cast includes Mark Lee, Patricia Lin, Sheila Sim, Shane Mardjuki and Gary Lau.
Kwong is currently producing three other film projects and working on a new storyline exploring a father-and-son relationship in a fantasy genre. “Hopefully I get to direct it soon and not wait another 13 years,” Kwong said.
“Geylang” premieres at the festival on Nov. 26, 2022. The Singapore theatrical release is scheduled for Apr. 6, 2023.