KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 — Award-winning Malaysian film Abang Adik has made history as the first Malaysian film to top the box-office in Taiwan.
The film, which has won a steady stream of awards at film festivals around the world, premiered in Taiwan last Friday and grossed NTD15 million (RM2.2 million) in three days, reigning over last weekend’s takings.
Its successful debut took director Jin Ong by surprise as Abang Adik, being a Malaysian film, was not something the Taiwanese were used to.
“It’s amazing, I’m so happy,” said Ong in an interview with Malay Mail, adding that he cried tears of joy when he first found out.
The 48-year-old Malaysian producer and director credited much of the film’s success to the star power of Taiwanese actor Wu Kang-ren, who starred as Abang, the speech and hearing-impaired older brother.
“Wu Kang-ren has a huge following there,” said Ong.
“Before Abang Adik, he starred in several popular Netflix series, so everyone loves him.
“Abang Adik gave him his first nomination and win at the Golden Horse Awards so ecstatic fans were very supportive.”
Its touching storyline on the bond between two brothers and the outstanding performance by Wu and Malaysian co-star Jack Tan were also why the film was well-received.
'Abang Adik' is a hit with Taiwanese audience. — Picture courtesy of Jin Ong
Ong added that strong word of mouth after the first day of screening also helped tremendously.
“Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we did Q&A sessions at select cinemas in Taipei,” he said. “Each session was quite full, which exceeded our expectations.”
The film’s appeal lies in the boundless love shared by the brothers, who as part of the vulnerable undocumented group of society, face poverty, harassment, exploitative employment conditions, violence, xenophobia, lack of access to justice, limited health-care services and gender inequality.
“Their bond gave them the will to live and fight, which was what touched the audience,” said Ong, a veteran producer of many films including Shuttle Life, The Gathering, In My Heart, Miss Andy and The Paradise.
“Some watched it more than once to also better understand the issue of statelessness in Malaysia.”
Abang Adik, which is in Cantonese, Mandarin, Malay and sign language is Ong’s first feature film and marks actress Angelica Sinje Lee’s debut as a producer.
It is scheduled for release next week on Dec14 in Malaysia and in Hong Kong, on Thursday, Dec 7.