Francis (Bosco Francis) is a man at the end of his tether. The former magician often takes solace in the bottle and barely ekes a living as a cleaner in a nightclub. He has a 10-year-old son he desperately loves, but sorrow, guilt and constant inebriation have made him an ineffectual father. The son (Jathishweran) is a stoic old soul who has learned to bury his affection for his old man and to cope with his chaotic life.
A broken spirit and a single parent, Francis hopes to redeem himself and win his son's love and respect. He makes a painful - and bizarre - return to magic. An unexpected incident one night sets father and son on the road. In a dilapidated building, these two wounded souls come to terms with their love which is as deep and acute as their grief.
ERIC Khoo's new movie My Magic addresses issues of love, life, family ties, redemption and magic. The filmmaker describes it as his most personal piece of work to date.
"I'm a dad myself and for the longest time, I've wanted to do a movie about a father and son, the obstacles in their relationship, and how they get together despite the difficulties,'' says Khoo whose four boys are aged between 8 and 14.
It is also inspired by lead actor Bosco Francis, a real-life magician whom he has known for more than a decade.
The director says: "This guy is larger than life. I wanted to do something with him, and for him.'' He roped in journalist Wong Kim Hoh to work with him on the script. The two old friends have collaborated on Khoo's last two projects: Be With Me, a moving omnibus feature which opened the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005; and No Day Off, a short film about the trials and tribulations of a maid, which has been shown to critical acclaim in various festivals.
"Kim Hoh and I have been talking about the project for some time but we were sidetracked by other ideas.'' However, in late 2007, Khoo started reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road, a Pulitzer prize-winning novel about the adventures of a man and his son in a post-apocalyptic world. "The book inspired me to nail the project down,'' Khoo says. He did, within two short weeks. "It is my fastest shoot to date. Kim Hoh was in India for work but I'd send him ideas and he would flesh them out. We finished the script in a couple of days,'' he adds.
In the meantime, he had already assembled a crew including Adrian Tan, the cinematographer who also lensed Be With Me. Workshops were also arranged for Bosco and Jathis, the young actor playing his ten-year old son. "The workshops were crucial because I wanted them to establish a rapport and to be comfortable with each other. They were fantastic. Jathis was a god-send, he was so natural.'' says the director.
Bosco, meanwhile, was Khoo's "Rock of Gibraltar". "Many of the stunts he performed in the movie are real. Bosco wouldn't have it any other way. We had to shoot most of them in one take, because I couldn't afford to have him too hurt and injured.'' Although a 12-day shoot was planned, My Magic was shot in just nine days. "The cast and crew were just so good. They ran with me.'' From the outset, he wanted My Magic to be a "small, sensitive project.'' "I didn't want to go big and be extravagant with the execution. I wanted it to be intimate, personal and subtle.''
Shooting it, however, was not without its challenges. A major one was language. The movie is shot mostly in Tamil, a language alien to him and Kim Hoh who wrote the script in English. "Since both Bosco and Jathis are Indian, I wanted them to speak in their mother tongue because it is more authentic,'' says the director whose previous movies were mostly shot in a mixture of English and Chinese dialects. Fortunately he has a "saving grace”, supporting actress Grace Kalaiselvi, who became the film's resident translator. The hardest part of the shoot, however, was the ending. "I wanted My Magic to be layered, and to spring surprises. The ending is the most important. It is what will take the film to another level so we spent a lot of time conceptualising it, and getting it right.''
He adds: "Many of us are judgmental. If there is one lesson I hope viewers will take with them after watching this movie, it is that things and people are sometimes not what they seem.'
BOSCO FRANCIS is one of a handful of professional magicians in Singapore. A former labourer, his interest in this mysterious craft was piqued when he was picked to be the stage assistant for a touring American magician in the 1960s.
It grew into an obsession. He pored over books and made numerous trips to India to hone his craft. Today, he travels the Asian region performing, and his repertoire includes glass chewing, fire eating, illusions and levitation.
Many of the "painful" acts performed in My Magic are real because Bosco refused to have it any other way. Khoo says of his leading man: "He is a true professional. He has never acted before but his performance and his presence are truly mesmerising. Bosco jests: "Delivering the lines are more tricky than performing the stunts. With stunts, it's all about mind over matter.''
JATHISHWERAN, 14, never knew he had a talent for acting until his teacher sent him to an audition for a play when he was 10. Not only did he ace it, he also landed leading roles in two productions put up by the theatre company: playing The Devil in one, and folk hero Ali Baba in the other.
Roles for TV dramas soon came in, and he has since played a an assortment of characters - from a gangster to a disabled child. He has also hosted a children's health programme on TV. Of his experience on My Magic, he says: "I learnt so much, not just magic but how to act. Eric treated me like an adult and I felt like an adult. This is the fantastic experience of my life.''
Be With Me is Eric Khoo’s latest full-length feature after 2005's Be With Me, the critically acclaimed drama which opened the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes that year. The film has since gone on to reap a slew of international awards including Best Director at the Torino Film Festival, the Sabam Prize for Best Screenplay at the Flanders International Film Festival and FIRPRESCI Jury Best Film Prize at the Stockholm International Film Festival.
Khoo is credited for reviving Singapore’s film industry 10 years ago with his provocative Mee Pok Man which picked up prizes at festivals in Singapore, Pusan and Fukuoka. His sophomore feature 12 Storeys in 1997 was critically lauded all over the world and became the first Singaporean film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival.
In addition, Eric has produced several feature films and TV series; he was conferred the Singapore Cultural Medallion (2007) and Youth Award (1999) by the Singapore government for his dedication to filmmaking and contributions to society. Eric runs his own production company Zhao Wei Films, based in Singapore.
KHOO co-wrote My Magic with WONG KIM HOH, a senior journalist with Singapore’s biggest newspaper The Straits Times. Long-time friends, the duo have also collaborated on Be With Me, as well as No Day Off, a short film about the life of an Indonesian maid in Singapore. Commissioned by the Jeonju Film Festival in 2006, it has been screened in various festivals including Locarno and Vancouver International Film Festivals. Kim Hoh helmed an award-winning interview series: A Life Less Ordinary which profiles colourful Singaporeans from all walks of life. One such subject was Bosco Francis. Singaporean culture critic Alvin Pang wrote: “News features like Wong Kim Hoh’s A Life Less Ordinary have thrown up more intriguing real-life personalities than your average Hollywood script.’’
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
ADRIAN TAN is one of the top TV commercial directors in Singapore. He was responsible for the startlingly beautiful visuals of Be With Me, which nabbed the movie the Best Cinematography Award in the Stockholm International Film Festival. His attention to detail and sumptuous visual sense have earned the former stills photographer a lot of respect in the Singapore ad industry. His list of blue chip clients include StarHub, Citibank and Mercedes. Adrian also directed Bridge, an episode from the Eric Khoo produced TV series Seventh Month.
TAN FONG CHENG cut her teeth in the industry producing television commercials before rising through the ranks to become divisional controller of production house Moviola in Shanghai. In 2001, she decided to concentrate on movies and came on board Zhao Wei Films. Since then, she has produced many of the company's most noteworthy TV series as well as films including Khoo's Be With Me and No Day Off, as well as Royston Tan's 15 and 881.
JAMES TOH first collaborated with Eric Khoo on the screenplay for the critically-acclaimed “12 Storeys” in 1997. A former management consultant, he is now a partner in Zhao Wei Films, and has produced many of Zhao Wei’s films, including Royston Tan’s “4:30” (2006) and “881”. James has written numerous scripts for TV and the stage, as well as produced Singapore’s first Chinese musical, “December Rains.“ Through his White Paper, submitted in 1998, he was instrumental in lobbying the government to start a Singapore Film Commission to fund local films.
KEVIN MATHEWS has scored the music on several Eric Khoo projects including Be With Me, Mee Pok Man, 12 Storeys and One Leg Kicking. A lawyer by day, and music composer by night, he has a band called Groovy People.
CHRISTOPHER KHOO is just 10, and is the third of Eric Khoo's four boys. A piano lover, he has been keenly interested in My Magic from day one, reading every page of the script as it was being written.
So fascinated was he by the story that he composed the film's gorgeously evocative central theme Lonely Boy in just one night. He later worked with Kevin Mathews to improve it. Chris hopes to write more pieces for his Papa's movies in future.
To find out more about the Indian music in the film, go to