Inspired by his friendship when he was a younger boy, Malaysian director Ryon Lee got here up with the story for the native Chinese New Year film Small Town Heroes.
The film centres on the younger occupants on the House Of Happiness orphanage, particularly Feng (Phua Chandler) and his new pal, Hero (Roger Shak).
Often imagining himself to be a kung fu warrior on a wondrous journey, Feng drags Hero alongside on his many “adventures”. One of it contains operating away to Penang in quest of Hero’s mom.
Along the best way, Hero not solely positive aspects a real pal however somebody who teaches him the worth of loyalty, to be brave and the that means of household even when they aren’t associated to one another.
“When I was young, I had a friend like Feng,” shared Lee to StarLife-style. “He was a big influence in my life as he was the one who motivated me to be brave enough to chase my dream.”
Pursuing one’s ambition, the various layers of relationship and simply the enjoyment of being younger in a difficult world are simply a few of the many themes that audiences can discover on this heartwarming drama.
Lee additionally hopes that Small Town Heroes can present simply how harmonious Malaysia is when everybody – no matter their race and faith – be part of arms for a typical objective.
“Various festivals we celebrate in Malaysia are a good example of that harmony. It’s beautiful when we get together to celebrate our many festivals such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and be happy at the same time.
Besides featuring that harmony with a scene where the characters organise a Chinese New Year show at their village, the movie also highlights some gorgeous sceneries including Penang’s Frog Hill, which is an abandoned quarry with vibrant blue pools.
“I want to showcase the beautiful places that we have in Malaysia,” mentioned Lee, earlier than declaring one more vital message inside the film.
“One thing I want to bring forth through this movie is that prejudices against orphans are just terrible, whether from children or adults,” mentioned the filmmaker.
Since the film depends on the 2 younger protagonists to hold so many heavy themes, the casting of the 2 younger actors within the integral roles of Feng and Hero was essential.
Lee auditioned virtually 200 boys, who got here from throughout Malaysia earlier than deciding on Chandler and Roger.
“They are both very smart,” mentioned Lee of Chandler and Roger.
“During the audition they spoke well, sharing things about their lives, which I found very impressive for someone their age.
“After working with them, I have no doubt if they want to become actors in the future, they will have no problem.”
Chandler, 13, has executed a lot of TV adverts, whereas Roger, 15, has appeared within the worldwide film Crazy Rich Asians. They are each energetic on social media, creating content material for his or her respective accounts.
Actor-singer-TV host Jack Lim (Papa, Come Home, Huat The Fish) generously agreed that Chandler and Roger are the primary stars of Small Town Heroes and he’s only a supporting forged.
Lim performs one of many adults in Small Town Heroes who usually visits the orphanage with a van stuffed with goodies, and helps out each time the boys get into hassle exterior the orphanage.
Lim mentioned: “I know Roger and Chandler through their YouTube videos and commercials, and they are pretty good. So far, they’ve only had to handle happy scenes whereas in Small Town Heroes there are many tear-jerking scenes where they have to cry.
“I must say they pulled off the emotional scenes brilliantly, and only with a little guidance,” mentioned Lim, who’s himself a father to an adolescent.
Roger, who lives in Shah Alam, and KL-based Chandler mentioned they had been pals even earlier than engaged on Small Town Heroes. They identified to StarLife-style that they each had issues previous to filming their crying scenes.
Chandler recalled: “Actually I didn’t know how I was going to cry for my scene because I have never done it before. I was very nervous on the day of the filming.
“Then my dad told me that my cousin passed away and he told me not to cry. He said, don’t cry, don’t cry’.
“Then when I started shooting the scene, I started bawling and I couldn’t stop. When I saw that everyone on set was also crying, I cried even more.”
Likewise, Roger needed to recall a tragic reminiscence with the intention to begin crying for his huge scene within the film. “I cried so much for the scene that I didn’t know how to stop either.”
The energetic teenagers shared that the primary time they watched the film, they had been positive they weren’t going to cry on the emotional scenes.
“When the scene started, the tears did too,” mentioned Roger. “My dad, who never cries when watching movies, was crying as well!”
Nodding, Chandler mentioned: “I reached for the tissue as well.”
Completing the forged member in Small Town Heroes is Layla Sania, who performs a volunteer trainer on the orphanage who kinds a powerful bond with the youngsters.
The character additionally harbours a dream of turning into the primary feminine wrestler, however is continually informed it’s merely not possible.
Layla rose to fame by I Can See Your Voice Malaysia Season Three in 2019.
The 20-year-old, who can converse and skim Mandarin, launched her first single Que Sera Sera the identical 12 months. Small Town Heroes marks her performing debut in a film.
According to Layla – who’s pursuing a Diploma in Early Childhood Education at Unitar Malaysia – she confronted no drawback when she was on set performing with the kids.
“I love hanging out with children because they don’t judge and they are honest. So, I always find it more comfortable being myself with them because they are themselves as well.
“So, in terms of acting as a teacher who likes hanging out with the children, it wasn’t that difficult. Furthermore, the director let us be ourselves.
“He wanted us to be honest with our performance and not follow the script strictly.
“But reading the script – all in Mandarin – now that was difficult,” mentioned Layla who attended Chinese major college as a baby.
“I had to understand what each word meant. Mandarin is complicated – one word can mean a lot of things – which was why I had to sit down with my dictionary to figure out the script properly.”
Despite all of the challenges, Layla confessed she’s wanting ahead to many extra performing jobs sooner or later.
“I want to be able to pursue my dream as a singer, actor and an educator. I want to do it all,” Layla informed StarLife-style.
With so many themes in Small Town Heroes, we requested Lim what he thought was the largest takeaway from the film was.
He answered: “I hope children who watch this film with their parents realise that they are very lucky to have parents who treat them like a prince or princess. Anything they want, their parents give them.
“I hope they appreciate their parents and not take them for granted. And really know that the parents are doing anything and everything for them out of love.”
Small Town Heroes opens at cinemas nationwide on Thursday (Feb 3).