Abang Adik

In Competition for the White Mulberry Award for First Time Director


Abang Adik 

富都青年 (Fù dōu qīngnián)

Malaysia, 2023, 115’, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay
Directed by: Jin Ong  
Screenplay: Jin Ong  
Photography (color): Kartik Vijay, ISC
Editing: Mun Thye Soo
Art Direction: Penny Tsai, Soon Yong Chow
Music: Ryota Katayama, Wen Hung
Producers: Lee Sin-je, Nicole Teoh, Trini Lam
Cast: Kang Ren Wu (Abang), Jack Tan (Adik)

Date of First Release in Territory: TBA


Brotherhood has always been one of the great themes of cinema, and family ties and the bonds between brothers have been the subject of memorable stories about fragile relationships as well as of violence, jealousy and revenge.
The story featured in Abang Adik is not a memorable one in that sense – there’s no epic plot and there’s nothing heroic about it, but it is nevertheless a story of human brotherhood between two young men living on the margins who perhaps don’t even really share a genuine bond of blood.
But it doesn’t matter whether or not Abang and Adik are “real” brothers born of the same parents, because they are their own family. They are stateless.
Played by Taiwanese actor and model Wu Kang-Ren, Abang was born mute and his only goal in life is to work hard and seek stability, a home, a job and a position to give meaning to his existence. His younger brother Adik (played by the Malaysian actor and singer of Chinese origins Jack Tan) instead refuses to give in to his fate and sells false documents, works as a male escort, gets into fights and hangs out with disreputable people (Bront Palarae’s cameo as the local gangster in the thrilling action sequence featuring illegal migrant workers at the beginning of the film is absolutely convincing). Adi wants to get away from there!
Both are originally from Malaysia but as they don’t possess ID cards they have no rights and are excluded from society.
Jin Ong’s film immediately shows us this contrast, which reflects the wider realities of Kuala Lumpur, where the story takes place: a gigantic sprawling metropolis full of the contrasts of the languages, cultures and races that coexist in this city with its immigrants and natives and its rich and poor – the poor often without an identity. Four different languages are spoken in the film: Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay and English. The inhabitants of Malay origin hold political power and control the police, while those of Chinese and Cantonese origin often just keep their heads down and work hard.
Abang and Adik have never left Kuala Lumpur – in fact, they’ve never even left the Pudu Pasar district, home to the city’s damp, smelly and crowded old market, which is where the film’s secondary characters also live: sweet transwoman Money, an emigrant from Myanmar who is in love with Abang but is forced to return to her homeland, and social worker Jia En, a fierce young woman doing her best to help marginalised residents apply for legal ID cards who fights fearlessly and unhesitatingly to help the two brothers. Whatever it costs.
With direction so elegant and confident that it’s hard to believe it’s his first time behind the camera, Ong tells us his story through images and sign language, physical and gestural, giving the story an expressive power that is incredibly compelling.
Dialogue is used sparingly, the story mainly being told visually through the warm, enveloping colours of Indian cinematographer Kartik Vijay’s beautiful photography and through the soundtrack by Katayama Ryota, a talented young musician of Japanese origins who is active in Malaysia.
Ong in fact started out as a music and then a film producer. After producing 2017’s beautiful Shuttle Life (starring Jack Tan and Sylvia Chang) he decided to write and direct his first film, bringing in talents of various nationalities and backgrounds and involving as executive producer Lee Sin-je (Angelica Lee), a Malaysian star well known in Hong Kong and Taiwan.


Jin Ong


Ong is the founder of Moore Entertainment Co., Ltd., and is a veteran in the entertainment industry. He has more than 20 years of experience in the record industry and artist management, and is a renowned Malaysian film and television producer. His filmography as a producer includes The Gathering (2014), Shuttle Life (2017), The Paradise (2019), In My Heart (2019), and Miss Andy (2020), and Shuttle Life was the first Malaysian project to win the grand prize at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Project Promotion. Abang Adik is his directorial debut, and it won the MirrorFiction Story Award and the FPP Visionary Award at the Golden Horse FPP, and it also recently won The Ecumenical Jury Award and the Audience Award at the 37th Fribourg International Film Festival.



2023 – Abang Adik



Sabrina Baracetti
Film Director: Jin ONG
Year: 2023
Running time: 116'
Country: Malaysia