Young actors shadowed autistic teen for authenticity
As two young actors found out, portraying characters with autism requires dedication,
Harith Haziq Kholdon, eight, and Izzy Zulkhazreef Zulkefli, 16, star in the critically-acclaimed Malaysian film Redha, which premiered here on Tuesday.
Co-written and directed by Madam Mona Riza, 49, Redha was inspired by real-life stories.
It centres on a married couple struggling to adapt after their only son is diagnosed as autistic.
The father refuses to come to terms with the situation, while the mother attempts to better understand autism to help her son - portrayed at different ages by Harith and Izzy.
Madam Mona, her husband and the film's executive producer Haris Sulong, editor Isazaly Isa and the two young actors, were in town for the gala premiere on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, some of the cast and crew members visited My Islamic Journey Education Hub to meet the students.
Madam Mona was visibly touched when the class greeted them and prayed for their health and success of the film.
To portray the boy with autism, Harith and Izzy shadowed 15-year-old Wei Xiang, who has autism, for nearly three months.
They followed the teenager’s actions very closely.
If he ran around a toy store, they did the same. If he laid down on the floor or screamed at a shopping mall, the boys followed suit.
Izzy told The New Paper at a sneak preview of the film: “The first time I met Wei Xiang, he was jumping around in a crowded Toys ‘R’ Us and throwing toys around.
“I stood behind (director) Aunty Mona and whispered, asking if I needed to really do it. I was so unsure. She gave me a stern glare so I took a deep breath and followed his actions.”
For the director placing them in the shoes of an autistic person was the only way to bring their character to life.
"The deal was for them to live and breathe Wei Xiang.
"I'm very particular about it, because if you want to emulate something as sensitive as this, you must emulate it as accurately as possible," Madam Mona told The New Paper.
Redha will be screened at The Projector in Golden Mile Tower from today until Sunday.
Part of the collection from ticket sales will go to the Autism Association (Singapore).