Ivan Heng is a Singaporean actor, singer, and director of Peranakan Thai Theatre. As such, he has been subjected to death threats from members of the Malay community in Malaysia who want Heng removed from the artistic life of the people in that country. Ivan Heng has responded by shutting down his production company W!LD Entertainment and now runs his very own theater company called Ivan Heng’s International Theatre Company.
Ivan Heng may well be one of the most controversial characters in modern Singaporean cinema. Born and raised in Singapore, he is of Chinese descent and was educated at both Singapore University and the University of London where he earned a degree in drama. In fact, his first major break came in the mid ’70s when he was cast opposite Ong Kiong in the hit movie Memento. After that, he went on to work with such diverse performers as Woo Soon Won and Saleh Mohini in movies that put Singapore and its people on the world stage.
Now Ivan Heng is back in the limelight. On the evening of the 18th anniversary of the closure of W!LD, Ivan Heng addressed the audience and explained how the closure came about. His words of wisdom included the praise of Singapore and its people, and called upon all Peranakan to rally and defend their homeland. He also expressed sorrow for the loss of people in conflicts overseas, especially in Iraq and other conflicts in the Middle East. Finally, he called on all Peranakans to come together and support the families of fallen soldiers who have given their lives in the name of their country.
Ivan Heng’s debut feature as a director is The Night Watch, which is scheduled for an autumn release. Like most new Chinese-language dramas set in modern-day Singapore, it is based on an actual military incident in which two Chinese guards on duty at the defense ministry were brutally killed. A patriotic hero by the name of Ko Peik Ling (actor Ong Tao) comes in to claim responsibility, and a fierce and emotional battle ensues between the two sides. It is perhaps Heng’s intention to create a film that taps into the vein of emotions running through Singaporean society at the moment. His first three films had all been produced by local companies, so this is quite a prestigious pedigree. But does The Night Watch live up to the expectations?
I think it will. Although there are elements of melodrama present – with the lead character killing his own brother and going crazy because of it – the story is undeniably uplifting and beautiful. Ivan Heng gives a great performance as the role of Ko Peik Ling, and the supporting cast, most of whom you’d forgotten from your high school days, really do their job, playing the different characters with real life emotion. The Night Watch may not be the best film ever made by a Singaporean but if you like melodrama and you like watching Singaporean cinema, then The Night Watch is likely to be a definite must-see film…
|Age (as of 2018)||54 years|
If you’re looking for something mildly amusing to watch during the downtime between Singaporean cinema festivals, then The Night Watch will do the trick. If you want something more thought-provoking and with a much higher level of emotion, then you should see Ivan Heng’s next movie, The Grandmaster. Not only does the man from Singapore hold the world record for being the world’s leading screenwriter and director, but he also directed this one. If you are a fan of this man’s work, you should definitely make it a point to see his next project, The Grandmaster. All these factors have led me to recommend Ivan Heng as one of the most important Singapore film directors we have got.