Nevin Hiong is no stranger to the local film industry. Since 2012, he has established himself as a director of photography on films like Kongsi, Cerita Kita, Cerita Hantu Malaysia and Karak.
When it was time to make Kampung Drift – his feature film debut as a director – Hiong had no problems getting names like Syafie Naswip and Pekin Ibrahim to star in it. Pekin who previously worked with Hiong in Cerita Kita, recalled the excitement he felt about Kampung Drift.
“We met at a mamak and he told me I was his first choice to star in the movie. When I heard the story, I was reminded of this Chow Yun Fat movie I used to watch as a kid called All About Ah Long,” he said.
While All About Ah Long focused on Chow’s character trying to make it as a professional motor racer, Kampung Drift has Syafie attempting to pass off as a drift car racer. Both movies feature an estranged father-son relationship.
In Kampung Drift, Pekin stars as Acai, a father who is reluctant to let his teenage son Johan (Syafie) become a drift car racer. Johan calls his father a hypocrite as the latter used to be a drift car champion. As a result, they drift apart (pun intended) and Acai struggles to reconnect with his son.
“I couldn’t wait to get started on the movie. In some ways, I got to be Chow Yun Fat,” Pekin said with a laugh.
With a budget of RM1.8mil, Kampung Drift features adrenaline-fuelled crashes and explosions that one would typically expect from a racing-themed movie. Hiong took things an extra mile and added a time travel element to the movie.
It has an eccentric scientist (played by Chen Sin Foo) who has a time travel device. Johan would later use this device to fix his relationship with Acai.
“I think from the trailer and movie title with the word ‘kampung’ in it, the audience wouldn’t expect a scientist character. I want to surprise the audience. It’s a real challenge to mix sci-fi with typical action and drama. But I want to see how the audience feels about it,” Hiong explained.
Pekin confessed that he was initially surprised by Hiong’s idea to add a time travel element into the movie. Likewise co-stars Syafie, Pablo Amirul (who plays Johan’s rival) and Fatin Afeefa (as love interest Julia) all expressed scepticism.
“I’ve always wanted to work with Nevin because I love the way he experiments with different shots just so the audience can get a new viewing experience. However, I have to admit that I thought his idea for Kampung Drift was risky,” Pablo said.
At the same time, he saw the need for a change: “If Hiong doesn’t take the risk then our audience will never be able to experience something new.”
Pekin also applauded Hiong’s courage and willingness to take risks especially at his first attempt as a director. Looking at the big picture, he said such tenacity is needed in the local film industry: “As a director myself, it’s inspiring to see Hiong take a risk like this.”
For Syafie who has been acting since he was 12, Kampung Drift sees him attempting comedy for the first time. Just like Hiong, he took a risk and would love to see what the audience thinks of his attempt.
“We all worked hard on this film, and it was an important learning process for all of us,” Syafie said.
Kampung Drift is currently showing at cinemas nationwide.