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Apprentice is a 2016 Singaporean drama film directed by Boo Junfeng. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.[4][5] It was selected as the Singaporean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards but it was not nominated.[6][7]

Apprentice 2016.jpg
Film poster
Directed byBoo Junfeng
Produced byRaymond Phathanavirangoon
Fran Borgia
Tan Fong Cheng
Written byBoo Junfeng
StarringFirdaus Rahman
Wan Hanafi Su
Music byAlexander Zekke
Matthew James Kelly
CinematographyBenoit Soler
Edited byNatalie Soh
Lee Chatametikool
Distributed byClover Films / Golden Village Pictures (Singapore)
Version Originale (France)
Release date
  • 16 May 2016 (2016-05-16) (Cannes)
  • 1 June 2016 (2016-06-01) (France)
  • 30 June 2016 (2016-06-30) (Singapore)
Running time
96 minutes
Hong Kong
BudgetSG$1.8 Million[1]
Box officeUS$52,991[2] (France)
SG$174,000[3] (Singapore)

The film focuses on a young prisons officer meeting an older colleague, who is revealed to be the chief executioner. As their relationship intensifies, their backstories are revealed throughout the course of the film. It also touches on the death penalty from an executioner's point of view.[8]



Prisons officer Sergeant Aiman has just been transferred from "Commonwealth" (referring to the former Queenstown Remand Prison) to the fictional Larangan Prison, the state's maximum security prison. Due to his vocational education background, he is assigned to watch the rehabilitating prisoners at the prison's workshop. Later on, while helping a colleague, Sergeant Joseph, to clear some stores at the prison gallows, he encounters the Chief Executioner, Senior Chief Warder (1) Rahim. He volunteers to help Rahim find suitable rope for the gallows, and the two men soon strike up a friendship.

At home, Aiman informs his older sister, Suhaila, of his encounter with the hangman. This puts a strain on the siblings' relationship; Suhaila is displeased with Aiman's dealings at work, particularly because their father was sentenced to death thirty years ago for murder, while Aiman appears to disapprove of Suhaila's relationship with John, an Australian expat.

At work, Joseph reveals to Aiman that he has stepped down as Rahim's assistant because, when tasked with carrying out an execution, he could not bring himself to pull the lever. Aiman agrees to become Rahim's new apprentice. Suhaila calls Aiman to announce her engagement to John. Aiman does not take it well, and out of spite, tells Suhaila that he is now the hangman's assistant, greatly angering Suhaila. Meanwhile, Rahim teaches Aiman the tricks of the trade and shares his knowledge and experience with him, and their mentor-mentee bond grows stronger.

Aiman finally receives first-hand experience with an execution. He ushers death-row inmate Randy to the gallows, where Rahim offers Randy words of consolation before performing the execution. Distraught with the experience, Aiman tries to call Suhaila to no avail. He rushes home to find the house empty; Suhaila has presumably left for Australia with John.

In the meantime, Rahim checks on Aiman's security clearance and finds out that Aiman's father had been sentenced to death a long time ago. When Aiman returns to work, Rahim tells him that his father's criminal record ought to have precluded him from taking up a role pertaining to execution, and that his failure to disclose such was an offence. Aiman argues that his father's past should not have any bearing on his employment and others' impressions of him. The two men get into a heated argument; Aiman questions Rahim's ethics, and Rahim chides Aiman for speaking out of line. When things cool down, Rahim says Aiman can expect disciplinary actions. When Aiman returns home, he sends a voice message to Suhaila to let her know that he could lose his job.

Rahim is involved in a road traffic accident and is hospitalized. Assistant Superintendent James Tan puts Aiman in charge of an upcoming execution, implying that not only might Aiman not have been charged, his career with the prisons department may have taken a turn for the better. The next morning, Suhaila calls Aiman about her arrival in Australia. She checks with Aiman to confirm if he will be charged; Aiman responds "maybe not". She then reassures him and lets him know that, as his older sister, she will always be there for him.

The day of the execution arrives. The death-row inmate is ushered towards Aiman, with a number of important persons observing. Aiman leads the inmate to the gallows, puts the noose around the inmate's neck and places his hands on the lever that activates the trap doors. The screen goes black, leaving the outcome open-ended.


  • Firdaus Rahman as Sergeant Aiman Yusof, a 28-year-old Malay prisons officer who is recently transferred to Larangan Prison.
  • Wan Hanafi Su as Senior Chief Warder (1) Rahim, the prison's long-serving Chief Executioner.
  • Mastura Ahmad as Suhaila, Aiman's older sister.
  • Nickson Cheng as Sergeant Joseph Lee, Rahim's assistant who later steps down.
  • Boon Pin Koh as Assistant Superintendent James Tan, Larangan Prison's Chief Clerk who later assigns Aiman to perform his first execution.
  • Crispian Chan as Randy Tan, a death-row inmate.
  • Sean Tobin as John, an Australian expat and Suhaila's love interest.
  • Gerald Chew as Hock, a death-row inmate.


Preparations for the film were spread over a period of five years. As a starting point for research, Boo had read the book Once a Jolly Hangman by Alan Shadrake. The book, critical of Singapore's judicial system, also included an interview with hangman Darshan Singh who had executed up to 18 convicts in a day.[9] He had also interviewed former executioners, imams and priests who had helped death row inmates with their last prayers prior to their execution, and families of those gone under the death penalty.[10]

Film shooting took place inside several disused prison facilities in New South Wales, Australia.[10][11] This was also done to further avoid uproar from fellow Singaporeans regarding the controversial practice being the topic of the film.[9]


Apprentice received positive reviews and a standing ovation[12] at the film's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.[13]

Domestically, the film premiered at the Capitol Building on 14 June,[14] followed by an island wide release on 30 June. Reviews for the film were positive.[15][16] The film also had a significant following in neighbouring country Malaysia as it premiered in selected cinemas there on 24 November of the same year with positive reviews.[1][17][18]


The film has won several awards for its story narrative and cast, including the NETPAC award at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards,[19] "Best Narrative Film" at the Interfaith Awards of St. Louis International Film Festival,[20] the Golden Orchid Special Special Mention for "Best Acting Ensemble" at Hawaii International Film Festival,[21] Asian New Wave Best Film at QCinema International Film Festival 2016[22] and director Boo Junfeng wins the "Rising Director" award Busan International Film Festival.[23]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Kho, Gordon (21 November 2016). "Rising star: Singaporean filmmaker Boo Junfeng -". Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Apprentice". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ " - Your Online Source to the World of Movies in Singapore". Archived from the original on 24 July 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  4. ^ "2016 Cannes Film Festival Announces Lineup". IndieWire. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  5. ^ "Cannes 2016: Film Festival Unveils Official Selection Lineup". Variety. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  6. ^ Patrick, Frater (15 September 2016). "Singapore Appoints 'Apprentice' for Foreign-Language Oscar Run". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  7. ^ Blair, Gavin J. (15 September 2016). "Oscars: Singapore Selects 'Apprentice' for Foreign-Language Category". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  8. ^ hermesauto (16 May 2016). "Boo Junfeng's Singapore death penalty film stirs emotions in Cannes". Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Boo Junfeng's Singapore death penalty film stirs emotions in Cannes". The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. 16 May 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  10. ^ a b Tan, Marguerita (16 June 2016). "If prison walls could talk". TODAY Online. Mediacorp Press Ltd. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  11. ^ Lui, John (29 June 2016). "Movie reviews: Executioner in Apprentice deserved more screen time". The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  12. ^ "Standing ovation for Boo Junfeng's Film at Cannes". Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Positive reviews for Singapore's Apprentice at Cannes Film Fest". Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  14. ^ Derrick See (29 June 2016). "Apprentice 2016 Movie Gala Premiere". Retrieved 28 July 2016 – via YouTube.
  15. ^ "FILM Review: Apprentice - ATMOS". 21 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  16. ^ "Five on Friday: Why you should watch Boo Junfeng's prison film Apprentice". Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  17. ^ Loong Wai Ting. "Movie review: Boo Jun Feng's Apprentice". New Straits Times. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  18. ^ "'Apprentice' is one of the year's best Asian releases and it is playing in five cinemas across the nation". The Daily Seni. 29 November 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  19. ^ Yip Wai Yee (24 November 2016). "Boo Junfeng's Apprentice wins Netpac award at Golden Horse in Taipei". Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  20. ^ "Awards - STLFilmFest Nov. 3-13". Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Apprentice - BREAKING: Apprentice wins the Golden Orchid... - Facebook". Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  22. ^ "Apprentice - BREAKING: Apprentice wins Asian New Wave Best... - Facebook". Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  23. ^ "Singaporean filmmaker Boo Junfeng wins award at Busan International Film Festival". Retrieved 19 December 2016.

External linksEdit