Channel NewsAsia

Local film 1965 won't be a Lee Kuan Yew biopic, say producers

Starring Qi Yuwu and Deanna Yusoff, the dramatic thriller will tell the stories of immigrants and natives in the months leading up to Singapore's independence. 

SINGAPORE: Producers of the film 1965 said the movie will not be a biopic about Singapore's first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Neither will it be a political or propaganda film.

Rather, the film will be a dramatic thriller on how fragile racial harmony can be. The 1960s saw racial distrust erupting into violence in Singapore, and this movie will try to transport audiences back to these turbulent times.

The film, which has a budget of S$2.8 million, took five years to develop. Said executive producer Daniel Yun: "A year ago, we finally found a strong enough premise, and an engaging story and theme. And then the Little India riot happened. And we felt that, wow, it's really is not just then but now. And it's not something that involves only Singaporeans, but actually everyone around the world."

The script was revised more than 60 times. Screenwriter Andrew Ngin said the challenge was to make the story not come across as a history lesson, while trying to balance various elements. "There's action, there's drama, there's a little bit of comedy, humour, and then to integrate it all into one coherent Singapore story, I think that was a huge challenge," he said. "But luckily because I came from television, I'm used to writing all the drafts. But 60 is a new record for me!"

Two lead actors were announced today: actor Qi Yuwu will play a police officer, Inspector Cheng, while Deanna Yusoff will play Khatijah, a mother and owner of a small business who encounters a shocking turn of events that knocks her off balance.

Said the Malaysian actress: "It was a very important time, not just for Singapore, but also for Malaysia. I think what is important is that whatever happened then, is what has made us today. What we have here today, is what happened in the past. Those are very important times to find out more about and relive."

Qi, whose hometown is in Guangzhou, said: "Singapore has now become my other home. Through this movie, I hope to express the emotions I have about this country, so I cherish this opportunity very much. In this movie, I will be speaking in Cantonese, so I can use the language that is most comfortable to me to express myself. So I feel that it will be a genuine, comfortable and very sincere work."

As for the question of who will be taking on the role of Mr Lee Kuan Yew - that is not known for now, as the producers plan to reveal the rest of the cast progressively. Most of the filming will be done on Batam island in Indonesia. Production of the film will start in November, and it will be released next year. This is in time for the SG50 celebrations, which commemorates 50 years of the independence of Singapore.

The film will premiere at the newly reopened Capitol Theatre, which is also the film's venue partner. It is presented by blue3 Pictures and mm2 Entertainment, together with investment partners; and supported by the Media Development Authority of Singapore.