Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) has launched a campaign, ‘Autistic People Are Not Broken’, to raise awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month this month.

The campaign kicked off with a film screening of The Wayang Kids (Xì Qu Zong Dong Yuan in Mandarin) at GSC Mid Valley in Kuala Lumpur. The event was attended by Penang-born director Raymond Tan and young Singaporean actor Austin Chong.

The Wayang Kids, supported by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism, tells of a group of students practising to represent their primary school at an international Chinese opera performance.

As the children come from diverse backgrounds, they must deal with language and cultural differences while they learn social values such as racial harmony and resilience.

Chong plays an autistic boy nicknamed Open, who gets to prove himself by portraying the Monkey King in a stage show after a Chinese-Canadian exchange student (portrayed by Lorena Gibb) forms a friendship with him.

autistic Open Austin Chong The Wayang Kids

Austin Chong’s movie debut sees him playing an autistic student who gets to be the Monkey King in a stage show. Photo: Filepic

Chong is a martial arts champ who won three gold medals at Singapore’s National Youth Wushu Competition in 2016. For his movie debut, Chong did his research on autism and people with special needs to build his character. He also took to Chinese opera training quite easily.

“I watched lots of YouTube videos,” said the 13-year-old, who trains regularly to be fit for his martial arts competitions. “I also observed other special needs people while on public transport. It’s important we help promote awareness of autistic people in our society.”

Meanwhile, Tan (who also directed 2014’s Wayang Boy) says the producers visited over 20 schools and auditioned more than 500 students to cast the five kids in the lead roles. Apart from promoting bilingualism and traditional arts, Tan also hopes his film will shed light on autism.

Director Raymond Tan with actor Austin Chong. Photo: The Star/Shaari Chemat

“We hope to plant a seed in people’s minds, so they can learn more about heritage art and at the same time raise awareness on autism, and the challenges experienced by special needs individuals and the people around them.”

The movie co-stars Taiwanese actor Eli Shih and Canadian-Taiwanese TV host Christopher Downs.

GSC’s month-long campaign will see its website and social media bathed in blue (the official colour), while cinema staff will wear blue button badges promoting autism awareness. RM1 from every ticket sold for The Wayang Kids will be channeled to the National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom) for its programmes and activities. You’ll also get a badge with each purchase.

The Wayang Kids opens Apr 5 in these GSC cineplexes – GSC Pavilion KL; GSC 1 Utama, Petaling Jaya; GSC Mid Valley Megamall; GSC Klang Parade; GSC MyTown, Cheras; GSC IOI City Mall, Putrajaya; GSC Gurney Plaza, Penang; GSC Sunway Carnival, Penang; GSC Aman Central, Alor Setar; GSC Ipoh Parade Mall; GSC East Coast Mall, Kuantan; GSC Aeon Bandaraya Melaka; GSC Palm Mall, Seremban; GSC Paradigm Mall, Johor Bahru; GSC Suria Sabah, Kota Kinabalu and GSC CityONE Megamall, Kuching.

Catch The Wayang Kids at Golden Screen Cinemas nationwide. Follow GSC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.