The Wayang Kids is an adolescent tale about an unlikely friendship between a curious girl and an autistic boy. She opens his world with kindness and shows him that his gifted talents are inspiring to many. I am always drawn to simple but meaningful stories like this. This movie, especially, speaks to me that a little kindness goes a long way.
This movie is made with the family audience in mind. There are not many Asian family movies suitable for the whole family to watch, so I have decided to make one that both children and parent can enjoy. We believe for a great family movie, the best approach is to allow children tell other children a story. This movie lends a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves, and often misunderstood by the societies.
In The Wayang Kids, we intended to cast real students in this movie. We visited over 50 local elementary schools in Singapore and met over 500 students for audition. Eventually 5 of the students from different cultural backgrounds were selected to play the main cast of the movie. None of the students has any prior acting experience, so we have them go through acting and Chinese opera performing classes. They learned how to project their voices, internalize the dialogs, do somersaults, etc. I worked with them one step at a step so they would feel comfortable and confident when placed in front of the camera.
The young actor who plays the autistic boy in the movie did not realise the challenge that was prepared for him in the beginning. I have him understand autism by watching documentaries online, meeting autistic people and speaking to parents and specialists. From there, he developed a unique gesture and created his own world to get into the character.
All the students practiced for close to two months before the filming began. Before the audition, none of the students knows each other, and all of them have become best friends in the course of making the movie.
In the movie world, there is a saying that we should try our best to avoid working with children and animals in films. It is true to certain extent. Children are playful and can be out of control on film set. I was wary in the beginning that these young actors in this movie did not come equipped with the right skills or would not work well as a team. However, through their perseverance and resilience, they have proved that my worries are not a concern. They managed to pull through, and showed us something that is authentic and adorable. The children have actually inspired me while working with them. They never took this project lightly. Even without experience, they tried very hard and endured through every challenge. They wanted to give their best performance to the audience.
These children made me proud that The Wayang Kids has gone to many countries: Australia, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Sweden, and now to CATCHPLAY in Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia. In today’s films that are filled with actions and adult themes, we hardly have films that are suitable for children. I hope more audience will enjoy this movie together as a family and see the performance of these multi-cultural children from Singapore for yourselves.
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