Nanyang girls get into character for centenary film

Some Nanyang Girls' High School student-actors had their hair cut to portray 1930s and 1980s students in a 45-minute movie, produced as part of the Nanyang family of schools' centenary celebrations this year. The festivities also include a gala dinne
Some Nanyang Girls' High School student-actors had their hair cut to portray 1930s and 1980s students in a 45-minute movie, produced as part of the Nanyang family of schools' centenary celebrations this year. The festivities also include a gala dinner on July 29, which will be attended by PM Lee.PHOTO: NANYANG GIRLS' HIGH SCHOOL

Talk about method acting.

When Nanyang Girls' High School students Cheyenne Tso, 15, and Yan Bin Bin, 14, were given roles in their school's anniversary film, they had their hair cut short.

A few of their schoolmates, who also had roles in the film, cried when their locks were shorn.

All for scenes set in the 1930s and 1980s, when the high school's girls had to wear their hair short. The 45-minute movie is to mark the 100th anniversary of the Nanyang family of schools. The family includes Nanyang Kindergarten and Nanyang Primary School.

Bin Bin, who auditioned late last year for her role, was close to tears when her long tresses fell to the floor. But the Secondary 3 student said acting in the film was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity.

"Hair can grow back. To trade it for this experience was worth it," she said. "Through the film, I learnt more about my school's past."

The film, which features an all-Nanyang cast of students, staff, alumni and parents, captures the experiences of three generations of students in the 1930s, 1980s and now. The production by Zhao Wei Films, helmed by local film-maker Eric Khoo, took months to prepare.

This year, the Nanyang family of schools will mark its centenary with a series of events. Besides the film, the schools will release a commemorative book, which reminds readers of the milestones in the Nanyang family.

Nanyang Girls' High School, set up by a group of mostly local Chinese merchants and businessmen in 1917, struggled in its early years. Started as a Chinese school for girls, it faced a leadership crisis at one point - welcoming seven principals over a span of six years from 1921 to 1927. During the war, it was closed and used by British soldiers as a field office and later by the Japanese army as a military hospital.

But the school community persevered and enrolment grew sharply. The kindergarten and primary sections were later separated from the main school.

Nanyang Girls' principal, Madam Heng Boey Hong, said: "The celebrations will help our girls appreciate how far we've come."

Planning for the centenary began two years ago, with the board of directors, Nanyang Schools Alumni Association and members of the three school communities working together. The celebration includes a gala dinner on July 29 at Marina Bay Sands, which will be attended by more than 3,000 guests, including staff, students, alumni and partners.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, an old boy of Nanyang Kindergarten and Nanyang Primary School, will be attending the dinner, which includes a 30-minute musical showcasing the schools' developments.

Prominent alumni of Nanyang Girls' include the late Madam Ling Siew May, wife of former president Ong Teng Cheong, and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2017, with the headline 'Nanyang girls get into character for centenary film'. Print Edition | Subscribe