Actor Maxi Lim takes on autistic role for new short film
Local actor Maxi Lim takes on role of autistic person in short film
Maxi Lim is best known for playing the comical and eager-to-please Wayang King in hit local movie series Ah Boys To Men, but his latest role shows a different side of him.
The local actor, 29, plays an autistic man trying to make friends after joining a church cell group in I Believe, a short film that was shot by a group of students from Lasalle College of the Arts.
It will be competing against 19 other films in the 20/20 - The Temasek Short Film Project contest.
The 16-minute film has been gaining traction on social media since it was uploaded last Friday. It has been shared more than 5,900 times on Facebook and has garnered 422 votes on the project's official website.
Four films will be released each week. The three other films released so far have less than 80 votes each.
Lim's acting chops were also commended, with a netizen writing that the film proved Lim can "do better" than what he had showcased in the Ah Boys To Men movies.
Lim has also received encouraging feedback from strangers, including the compliment "you have a gift of tackling different and unusual roles".
Lim told The New Paper in a phone interview: "I thought this was just going to be a small project. I didn't expect so many people to notice it.
"The comments are coming in every minute, it's a pleasant surprise."
But taking on this role was not without its challenges.
Before the three-day shoot, Lim spent close to three weeks watching documentaries and YouTube videos on autism, hoping to spot the subtle patterns in the behaviour of autistic individuals.
He also spent a day with Mr Kaven Low, 21, an autistic friend of Mr Leroy Lim - the 25-year-old director of I Believe - to observe how he behaved.
But Lim was conscious that he did not want to overact.
"My last wish would be to misrepresent them, to do or say something that they will not.
"The community is already very misunderstood, I don't want my acting to make the situation worse," he said.
Lim also took a big leap of faith in acting in I Believe.
"I was worried that it would (further) stereotype (me in terms of) the kind of roles I take on - silly and blur - but this short film showed people a different side of me," he said.
Lim admitted that he did not know much about autism before acting in the film, but he now feels strongly about the condition and hopes that I Believe will show that autistic individuals "are just like us".
"In fact, they are so pure and genuine, there is absolutely no need to read between their words or second guess their meaning.
"We can definitely be more gracious, more accepting, more forgiving," he said.
"People need to understand that autism is not contagious and it is absolutely not wrong to be autistic."
He said he hoped his portrayal would build bridges and start conversations on how society can care for those with special needs.
"In fact, they are so pure and genuine, there is absolutely no need to read between their words or second guess their meaning."
- Actor Maxi Lim on autistic individuals
Director had real-life inspiration
When director Leroy Lim first met Mr Kaven Low and became his group leader in church, he was sometimes frustrated by the strange behaviour Mr Low displayed.
Mr Low, who is autistic, would rush up to people he was friendly with and stand very close to them while talking.
But Mr Lim's "warped perceptions" of being "somehow better than" Mr Low changed the day the latter offered to pray for him.
Mr Lim's experiences with Mr Low were the inspiration behind I Believe, as he realised the autistic community needed a lot more support.
"I also felt that God was opening a door for me to make a film that could be meaningful and personal, not only for me, but for many others," said Mr Lim, a final-year student at Lasalle College of the Arts.
Ah Boys To Men actor Maxi Lim said that when he first auditioned, he was not sure if he would be able to portray an autistic person "without an overemphasis on the behavioural quirks that are usually displayed in an autistic character".
But Mr Lim changed his mind when it was clear that Lim felt strongly about the cause during his audition.
Mr Lim was also impressed by Lim's professionalism, describing how he would crack jokes on set, but became professional once the camera starting rolling. Mr Lim added that it was "commendable" that Lim managed to bring the character to life.