Long Long Time Ago

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Revisiting the past with Jack Neo’s new film “Long Long Time Ago”.

After making ‘Homerun’ in 2003, popular home-grown director Jack Neo had always wanted to make another movie exploring kampong family life – and he finally get to do so with the release of ‘Long Long Time Ago’ in 2015.

“I have all these fond memories of my own childhood growing up in the kampong – you know, catching earthworms in middy ponds and rearing pigs at home – and I wanted to make a movie that can really showcase those good old days, he tells Life! in Mandarin following the press conference held at Marina Bay Sands on 10 December, 2014 to announce his latest project.  (Source:  The Straits Times, 11 December 2014).

“After I made Homerun, I’ve wanted to explore kampong life a lot deepter, to tell a more complete kampong story.  And what better time to take this movie in 2015, when Singapore celebrates its 50th birthday?  The movie will evoke a lot of good memories for many Singaporeans.”

Homerun, his remake of Iranian flick Children Of Heaven (1997), was about a pair of siblings in 1965 Singapore.

Long Long Time Ago, a $6-million project to be released in two parts, is said to be a heartwarming story about a single-parent family and will take them from Singapore’s birth in 1965 all the way to the present day.

The first part, due out at the end of next year, will focus on the kampong days, while the second part, scheduled for release in 2016 during Chinese New Year, will have the family move out of the kampong and into HDB flats.

The official trailer on YouTube here .

Kampung boy Jack gets nostalgic

By Wendy Teo in New Paper, 15 November 2002

At a certain spot in a Chai Chee carpark, you might see Jack Neo standing deep in thought.  No, the acclaimed director is not seeking inspiration for his new movie.

Instead, the 42-year-old is reminiscing over his childhood memories; the spot is where his old kampong house used to be.

Jack told reporters at the prayer ceremony for his new movie, Home Run, how much he missed the kampong life at old Kampung Chai Chee.

He had spent 16 years of his life there.

Jack said in dismay: “My old kampong is now an expressway! And where my house used to be, there is now a carpark.  There used to be so much space.  It’s quite sad to see it gone now.”

Incidentally, Home Run – inspired by the Iranian film, Children Of Heaven – is based in a kampong in ’60s Singapore.

It’s about a small boy and his younger sister who have to share one pair of shoes between them.

The son of a fishmonger, Jack said that even though is family wasn’t rich, his parents always made sure that the children’s needs were met.

“We didn’t know whether we were considered poor or rich, because there was nobody for us to compare with.  Everyone else in the kampong was just like us.  And my parents could afford our schoolbags, uniforms and stationery.

“The only time we felt different was when our neighbours had toys, or “bak kua” (barbecued pork) to eat, and we didn’t.  Some of them would even boast about going out for a seafood dinner, but we never had the chance to do so.”

According to Jack, going for a seafood dinner was considered a big treat then as it meant going to a proper restaurant and “the way they cook the seafood is different from how you cook it at home”.

But while Jack never had to go without shoes, he had to plead for a long time before getting his pair of basketball shoes, the ankle-cut canvas ones hat were highly popular back then.

“There was no Nike or Reebok.  I just wanted the Panda brand of high-cut shoes, but my father refused.  In his time, my father had to go to school barefoot, and he told me to be grateful that I even had shoes.”

But, eventually, Jack’s mother gave in and bought him the much-coveted China-made shoes.

As the eldest in the family (he has two younger brothers), Jack had to help out in the family by taking care of the pigs and chickens.

But, as a treat, his grandmother would take him and his brothers to the movies, a makeshift open-air affair.

Jack’s eyes shone as he talked about watching the black and white films – like Ten Brothers and Monkey God – at the cheap ticket price of 20 cents.

He also remembered how, after watching a Bruce Lee movie once, he broke his brother’s arm during a play-fighting session.

“I was in Secondary 1 then.  We were fooling around and pretending to fight with each other.  My brother was executing a Bruce Lee move he learnt from the movie when I blocked him and broke his arm.

“My parents didn’t know what to do with me.  And they didn’t scold me, which made me feel even more guilty!

“Hearing my brother yell out in pain at night made it even worse.”

These days, the kampong kid has made good.

From imitating Bruce Lee’s moves, Jack is now a lauded local director who has been praised by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong himself.

In fact, Jack was given the International Management Action Award by Spring Singapore at the Shangri-La Hotel.

The award was for the contributions he and his successful production company, J Team Production, have made to the media industry.

Jack now lives in a semi-detached house in the east, together with his wife and three children.

But he will have the chance to relive his childhood memories while working on his fifth and latest movie.

He left for Malaysia yesterday for location shooting of Home Run.

He said: “It’s not possible to find a kampong here in Singapore.

“Everything’s either built-up or has been set aside for preservation.  But I managed to find a kampong in Malaysia, just like what Singapore had in the ’60s, right down to the attap trees.”

As the school holiday has begun, Jack said he would take his wife and children along to Malaysia.

“I want to show my children what kampong life is like.

“In fact, that’s the point of my movie, I want kids to know how tough life can be, and also how import a pair of shoes can be to some people.

“These days, kids are too fortunate.  They don’t know what hardship is.”

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