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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
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'Apprentice' more than about death penalty

Apprentice poster
In the movie Apprentice, characters are surrounded by death.

More specifically, they deal with deaths that happen because of the death penalty.

The topic might be fraught with controversy, but writer-director Boo Junfeng wants to steer clear of making moral points.

"The themes are larger than that topic," he says.

"Capital punishment is something that I have always been concerned with and I wanted to tell a story about it," says the 32-year-old film-maker, who last month saw the film make the official selection in the Un Certain Regard section at the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival.

"The point of view I wanted to take was not going to come from the prisoners. I feel we have seen films like that before.

"I had a genuine curiosity about someone who is actually empowered to kill," says Boo at a press conference at the Parkroyal on Pickering hotel yesterday.

"We forget that in many societies around the world with the death penalty, there is a group of people who have to kill. What is the psyche behind that? That was something I was curious about."

Singapore actor Fir Rahman plays Aiman, a young prison officer who is taken under the supervision of senior officer and hangman Rahim, played by Malaysian actor Wan Hanafi Su.

Aiman's own life has been marked by the shadow of the death penalty, a fact that colours his relationship with Rahim and his sister, Suhaila, played by local actress Mastura Ahmad.

The film is Boo Junfeng's second feature, after the critically acclaimed Sandcastle (2010).

Apprentice will open in Singapore on June 30. It has been rated M18 by the Media Development Authority.

In Boo's early draft of the screenplay, the hangman was a "caricature", a person "with a certain darkness". But after speaking to a former executioner in Singapore, he revised the depiction.

"After meeting him, I realised this was a person. Of course, there are still moments of darkness to Rahim's character, but that does not define him as a person," he says.

Wan Hanafi Su, who plays veteran officer Rahim, also met the former hangman as well as prison religious counsellors who administer to the condemned. He was impressed by the care Boo took to make sure the actors were thoroughly prepared.

"It told me that this was a serious production," he says.

• Apprentice (96 minutes, M18) opens on June 30.

• There is a Blog-Aloud early screening on June 21 at GV Plaza at 7.15pm. Tickets are at $15. Writer-director Boo Junfeng will be present to take questions from the audience. For details, go to gv.com.sg





Source: StraitsTimes, June 14, 2016

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