The 7th Macau International Movie Festival may have taken place in December 2015, but director/writer Jess Teong still remembers clearly how she felt when it was announced that her film The Kid From The Big Apple had won the first award of the night, for Best Writing.
“I was very calm that night because I was so sure that I would not win. Also I hadn’t eaten all day as I was busy that my sugar level was low,” Teong, 50, told Star2.com.
“Luckily that morning I had posted on my Facebook that if I did win I would, first of all, tell them that the kid from the Big Apple is from Malaysia.”
As it turned out, this particular kid – 11-year-old Tan Qin Lin – won the very next award, in the Best Newcomer category.
“She asked me what to say if she was to win the award. I told her not to prepare and just say what comes to her mind then. When she received the award, the host asked her if she did well in the movie. And Qin Lin said confidently, ‘I did very well in the movie.’”
These two awards are not the only awards The Kid From The Big Apple that night. It also won Best Actor (Ti Lung) and Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Hester Hsuan).
The Kid From Big Apple – which is in Mandarin and English – tells the story of Sarah who moves from New York to Malaysia to live with her grandfather. Needless to say, she has some big adjustments to get used to.
How exactly did all of them celebrate after the four wins? Teong said: “There was (official) dinner after the awards, but I still couldn’t eat as I was too overwhelmed. Also the press wanted to talk us.
“When we finally went back to our room, Qin Lin was too excited that she couldn’t sleep. Finally, I convinced her to sleep and ordered room service.”
The Kid From The Big Apple was also selected as the Official Finalist in both Hollywood Screenplay Contest (2014) and New York Screenplay Contest (2013).
Although the movie is only premiering in Malaysia on March 10, the novel version of the film is already out. Currently, Teong is working with two young women who are translating the book for English-speaking readers.
“The publishers told me that this is a story for everyone. Not only for Chinese-speaking people, but every human being,” said Teong, confessing to tearing up when she thinks about it. “That is what I want to do, make movies that have a message.”
The Kid From The Big Apple carries the message that technology cannot replace love. The mother of two teenage boys added: “When I wrote The Kid From The Big Apple, I did it not with the intention it would win awards or make a lot of money at the box office. I did it because I wanted to share this story. Even if I don’t win anything after this, it will not affect my passion.”
The Kid From The Big Apple opens in cinemas nationwide on March 10.