Comic stars in Cathay film

Our Sister Mambo will star (from left) Michelle Chong, Judee Tan, Moses Lim and Siti Khalijah Zainal.

Upcoming local movie Our Sister Mambo will boast a powerhouse cast of comic talents.

Scripted by Michael Chiang - his first movie screenplay since the popular Army Daze (1996) - the new film will star Moses Lim, Michelle Chong, Siti Khalijah Zainal and Judee Tan, among others.

Taking the director's seat is Malaysian film-maker Ho Wi Ding, who is based in Taiwan. He won Best New Director at the Golden Horse Film Festival in 2010 for his light-hearted comedy Pinoy Sunday (2009).

Writer Chiang says that he has finished the first draft of the script for the romantic comedy, which centres on a father and his four unmarried daughters.

"I had a great time writing this script. It's going to be fun," says the 58-year-old, who is also known for writing plays such as Beauty Box (1984), Beauty World (1988) and High Class (2013).

In the film, 36-year-old Chong plays the titular Mambo, the third daughter, who tries to get her sisters hitched. Tan, 31, plays the eldest daughter.

Actresses playing the other daughers have not been confirmed.

Lim, 63, plays their father, while Siti plays Chong's best friend.Our Sister Mambo is the first big-screen production by Cathay Asian Films, a subsidiary of Cathay Organisation, in 15 years, since That One No Enough (2000). It was commissioned on an estimated budget of $1.7 million to celebrate Cathay's 80th anniversary next year.

The movie is described as a tribute to Cathay's film classics of the 1950s and 1960s, most notably Our Sister Hedy (1957), which was also about a middle-class family with four unmarried daughters.

Chiang says that his take, however, will be "happier"."This is a loose adaptation of that film, but I think the new one is a lot happier and more romantic. The first one was more dramatic.

"I've updated a lot of it for modern audiences. The youngest daughter for example, is a Web designer. Hopefully, this new version will retain the soul of the old but contain the spirit of the new."

Another Cathay movie that this new work draws inspiration from The Greatest Civil War On Earth (1961), which tells the story of cross-cultural interaction between two neighbouring families - one from northern China and the other from the south.

Chiang says: "The new film will not be about north and south China, but there are similar plot points in that this depicts Singapore's multi-racial society."

Film buffs will also notice the movie title reference to Cathay's 1957 film Mambo Girl, starring Grace Chang. The film, about a high-school girl's search for her birth mother, and remembered for its many catchy song and dance numbers, is one of Cathay's most immediately recognisable productions and closely associated with the company.

Veteran comedian Lim, best known for playing lovable patriarch Tan Ah Teck on local TV sitcom Under One Roof (1995 - 2003), says that he is "extra excited" to be part of the project as he grew up watching classic Cathay films.

He says: "I have seen most of those movies and I also visited the Cathay film set in Hong Kong when I was 12 years old. I remember watching Grace Chang filming a scene for Sun, Moon And Star (1960) and she was so wonderful.

"So, to be able to be part of this film that celebrates Cathay's 80th anniversary is very meaningful for me."

The project will be produced by Cathay's executive director Choo Meileen, who says self-deprecatingly that she does not know what the movie will achieve. But she adds: "I just hope it comes out well so that audiences will enjoy it."

The film will be shot in Singapore and this is scheduled for August or September. It will be released in July next year. All profits from the film, after production costs are recouped, will go to charities adopted by Cathay Organisation.

yipwy@sph.com.sg

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