The Tiger Factory 虎廠
2010, colour, 1.66:1, 88 mins
Directed by Woo Ming Jin (胡明進)
By Derek Elley
Wed, 26 May 2010, 13:21 PM (HKT)
Dull, emotionless drama centred on a dull, emotionless teenager caught up in a baby racket. Almost zero business beyond festivals.
Malaysia, present day. Ping Ping (Lai Fooi Mun), 19, who is under the guardianship of her aunt, Madame Tien (Pearlly Chua), works in a pig farm and as a dishwasher in a restaurant. She's saving to go to Japan to work in a car parts company. Unbeknownst to Ping Ping, her aunt also runs a clandestine "baby factory" in which migrant workers from countries like Burma are used to impregnate young woman and the babies then sold off. Ping Ping gradually learns the truth about her aunt.
Along with his other minimalist compatriots, Malaysian New Wave director WOO Ming Jin 胡明進 has always been a rarified taste, ever since his diffuse debut Monday Morning Glory 紅燈心 (2005). His fourth feature, The Tiger Factory 虎廠 (2010) returns to the more naturalistic, semi-documentary style of that first film but without its humorous undercurrents. With an expressionless lead in LAI Fooi Mun (the teenage lead in Charlotte LIM 林美娟's My Daughter (2009)), who is followed around by the handheld camera without ever revealing what she is thinking, the only point of interest (at least for Southeast Asian viewers) is the casting of veteran actress Pearlly CHUA 蔡寶珠, famous for playing the title role in Stella Kon's monologue play, Emily of Emerald Hill, about a nonya matriarch, for over 18 years. Unfortunately, the script by Woo and his co-producer Edmund YEO 楊毅恆 is so woolly and underwritten — throwing up ideas and then abandoning them — that Chua's character emerges as simply a cold abstract. Maybe because of the grubby subject-matter, Woo has even abandoned the visual poetry of his previous Woman on Fire Looks for Water 遺情 (2009) and The Elephant and the Sea 大象與海 (2007), with the cinematography by WAN Chun Hung (Woman on Fire) undistinguished on any level.
ContactSales: Greenlight Pictures, Selangor, Malaysia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Premiere: Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), 21 May 2010. Theatrical release: TBA.
Produced by Greenlight Pictures (MY), Kohei Ando Laboratory (JP). Executive producer: Ando Kohei. Producers: Edmund Yeo, Woo Ming Jin.
Script: Woo Ming Jin, Edmund Yeo. Photography: Wan Chun Hung. Editing: Edmund Yeo, Kenny Chua. Art direction: Lim Seow Wei. Costumes: Lim Seow Wei. Sound: Cheong Sau Pan.
Cast: Lai Fooi Mun (Ping Ping), Pearlly Chua (Madame Tien), Susan Lee (Mei, Ping Ping's sister), Rum Nung Chung (Kang), Cheong Wai Loon, Lesly Leon Lee, Chung Chung, Loh Bok Lai.