SINGAPOREAN filmmaker Boo Junfeng has made this year Cannes Film Festival with his second full-length feature, Apprentice. Aside from starring Singaporean talents such as actress Mastura Ahmad (Banting) and television personality Fir Rahman (Ramadhan Jangan Pergi), local actor Wan Hanafi Su (Lelaki Harapan Dunia) also plays a prominent role in the film.
Spanning 96 minutes, Apprentice is a Singaporean, German, Hong Kong and Qatari co-production shot in Singapore and Australia. The Malay-language film was selected by Cannes for Un Certain Regard, a section of the festival honouring “original and different” films.
Aiman is a 28-year-old Malay correctional officer who is recently transferred to the territory’s top prison. Aiman lives with his older sister Suhaila in a modest housing estate. At his new workplace, Aiman begins to take an interest in a 65-year-old sergeant named Rahim. Soon, it is revealed that the charismatic Rahim is actually the long-serving chief executioner of the prison. Rahim also takes notice of the principled and diligent Aiman. When Rahim’s assistant suddenly quits, he asks Aiman to become his apprentice. Aiman tells Suhaila of his new job position, but Suhaila becomes upset, as their father was actually executed by Rahim. Aiman knew this all along. Can Aiman overcome his conscience and a haunted past to possibly take over as the next chief executioner?
Director Boo Junfeng most recently surfaced to local awareness during Titian Budaya, a festival commemorating 50 years of bilateral ties between Singapore and Malaysia. During the programme, critically-acclaimed SG50 anthology 7 Letters was screened featuring his segment titled Parting.
Junfeng debuted in 2010 with Sandcastle, the fourth Singaporean film to make the official selection at Cannes. Reflecting on a young man’s turbulent life just before he enlists into national service, Sandcastle triumphed at the Vietnam International Film Festival, bagging Best Film, Best Director and the NETPAC Jury Award.
With a career spanning four decades of Malaysian film and television, veteran Malaysian actor Wan Hanafi meanwhile is best known for his award-winning turn in Hari-hari Terakhir Seorang Seniman. The 66-year old, who plays Rahim in Apprentice, was one of last year’s favourite for Best Actor at Festival Filem Malaysia — which eventually went to newcomer Lee Sai Peng for his work in The Journey.
In an interview with Astro Awani, Wan Hanafi stated that he was thrilled to finally realise a dream. He was also excited that his work will be premiered to international viewers.
Saya dah lama bermimpi untuk lakonan saya ditayangkan di Cannes. Bila dah umur 66 tahun ni, baru tercapai impian saya, maka saya rasa terharu.
— Wan Hanafi Su, 2 May 2016
Apprentice will premiere at the festival on 17 May 2016. Last year’s Un Certain Regard Prize went to Rams, an Icelandic film directed by Grímur Hákonarson.