19 Feb – While "Long Long Time Ago" star Aileen Tan may have been able to deliver her Hokkien lines fluently in the two-part movie, it was another story altogether for co-star Mark Lee.
"The hardest part for me was speaking in Hokkien," the actor said during the movie's press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia recently.
"Because the Hokkien dialect spoken today is different from the one spoken in the '60s and '70s. Nowadays, the younger generation often mixes in English and Malay when speaking in Chinese. But back then, everyone spoke in full Chinese."
Even director Jack Neo admitted that finding a cast that is able to speak the dialect fluently was the biggest challenge he faced in making the movie.
"Looking for people who can speak dialects was my biggest challenge. Because most of the people in Singapore, they don't speak dialects anymore. In fact, I came to Malaysia for audition," the director shared.
"During audition, about a thousand young people came. Most were able to act but when it came to speaking in Hokkien, they weren't fluent. Benjamin Tan was not only able to act but also able to speak it fluently," he added, referring to big screen newcomer who plays Ah Xi in the movie.
Tan, based in Los Angeles and Singapore, said that he was able to speak Hokkien fluently thanks to his grandmother, who took care of him during his childhood when both his parents were at work.
Due to the large use of Hokkien in the dialogues, Neo revealed that the movie risked being banned in Singapore, where the use of dialects in media is prohibited.
"In Singapore, movies are not allowed to have more than [certain] percentage of dialects. This is something filmmakers often fight against.
"But for this movie, not a line was edited. The movie was allowed a pass because my reasoning was that it portrays the past, the history. During the '60s and '70s, nobody spoke Mandarin except in the schools. So most people often spoke in dialects."
Since the movie portrays not only the adversity, but also the unity as well as diversity back in the days, Malay and Tamil languages are also utilised in it.
"This is the first time for a Singaporean movie to have three subtitles, English, Chinese and Malay. Because we want the Malay community to understand the movie as well," said the director.
The first of the two-part movie was recently released in Singapore on 4 February, while it will be shown in Malaysia on 31 March.
The second part of "Long Long Time Ago" is set to screen in Singapore sometime in March or April, it is yet to have a release date in Malaysia.