The Journey, a Chinese and English language film directed by Chiu Keng Guan, has set a new box office record for highest grossing Malaysian film. It raked in RM12.92 million as of Sunday 23 February, breaking the previous record of RM11.74 million held by KL Gangster (2011).

The Journey is a cross-cultural tale about an old man whose daughter is engaged to a foreigner. The old man sets his future son-in-law the task of travelling across Malaysia to deliver wedding invitations. The film was shot over four months in different parts of the country, with the diverse locations including Cameron Highlands, Penang and Johor.

Last year, our feature story The Dream Factory charted the rise of Chinese language films within the Malaysian film industry. In recent years, a slew of Malaysian Chinese films have found both critical acclaim and good box office returns. Now, The Journey has set a new standard for success within the industry.

Crucially, Malaysian Chinese films like Chiu’s are also finding an audience in other Chinese language markets such as Taiwan and Hong Kong. “If you want to do a big budget movie, you need to go out. You can’t cover [costs] here,” Chiu told Poskod.MY.

It’s worth noting that The Journey’s lush scenery of Malaysia is likely to appeal to both local and foreign audiences, while the love story also resonates with many relationships in a globalised world. However, rather than banking on big international names, Chiu cast mostly unknown actors in the leading roles.

Chiu’s previous films, Tiger Woohoo (also known as Woohoo) and Great Day, were both a success by local film industry standards. Tiger Woohoo reaped RM4 million, despite having its initial investor pull out at the last minute, and only screening at six cinemas upon its release.

Like Great Day, The Journey was financed by Astro Shaw and produced by Woohoo Pictures. Chiu is also head of Chinese productions at Astro. The screenplay for The Journey was written by Chiu’s longtime collaborator Ryon Lee.

Ling Low

Read our feature story about the rise of Malaysian Chinese language films here.