Made with a grant from Taiwan, "Shuttle Life" is a hard hitting look of those who live in urban poverty in the small mining town of Pudu, where Keong and his small family tries to seek out a humble living. When Keong's sister vanishes after waking up in the hospital, he is denied any compassion and help from all sides, as he tries to find his sister. "Shuttle Life" has been making a big name for itself among the Mandarin-speaking film circles around Asia, propelling a relative young cast and director to names that will be remembered overnight, and it is finally making its rounds to Malaysia.
Since "Shuttle Life" is now showing in cinemas, here are 5 reasons why you should watch this Special Jury Award winner from the recent Festival Film Malaysia.
"Shuttle Life" may have a relatively unknown cast and crew, but one name that would certainly stand out is Sylvia Cheng. A renowned Taiwanese actress and filmmaker in her own right, with best known roles from "20 30 40", "Eat Drink Man Woman" and most recently in Jia Zhangke's "Mountains May Depart", Sylvia lent much of her experience and expertise to the making of "Shuttle Life", giving inspiration and interpretation that gave much depth to the characters and direction. In "Shuttle Life", Sylvia plays the role of a mentally disabled mother, which only adds more weight to the heartbreak and hardship that Keong has to bear.
As part of a pop singing duo, Jack Tan may have found his calling to be an actor. Starting out with small and stable roles in local television dramas, Jack made his feature debut in 2014's "The Gathering" where he co-starred beside another Taiwanese veteran Michael Huang. For his second feature outing, Jack spent two months of pre-production work to develop his character, Keong, alongside the director while exploring the little known places around set on a bicycle. For his natural presentation and being able to embody a character surrounded on all sides by hardship of his circumstances, Jack was awarded the Best Actor from the Asian New Talent Award at the Shanghai International Film Festival and the Chinese Young Generation Film Forum.
Also making a distinguished mark on "Shuttle Life" is the cinematography to capture the visual filth and decay surrounding the character's lives. The camera work is done by Taiwanese cinematographer Chen Ko-chin who also lensed for 2015's "The Tag Along". For his work, he was awarded Best Cinematography at the Asian New Talent Award, and is currently in the running for the same award at the Golden Horse Film Festival in November.
"Shuttle Life" is the feature debut of Malaysian director Tan Seng Kiat, who also made the short love comedy "32 C Fall in Love". Although he failed to take home the Best Director from the New Talent Awards at the SIFF, the win for Best Film is already lending credence to his storytelling capabilities. Tan is still in the running for the Best New Director at the Golden Horse Film Festival that would cement his credentials as a Malaysian director to look out for.
Poverty can be a vicious trap and rarely are we aware of its effects to drive those who live by them over the edge. A topic that is well explored by many young and upcoming Malaysian filmmakers in recent years, "Shuttle Life" easily sits alongside "Songlap" and "Jagat" as another portrayal of how the Malaysian poor are disenfranchised by our society within their own communal context. Tacking that one with the sub-theme of care for the mental unstable, and the struggles of Keong are a reality to many Malaysians who survive but do not live.