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The Charm of First Love in Picturesque Taiping

電影[同學會The Gathering] – [地靈人傑] 花絮太平

Check out this coming-of-age movie set against the scenic backdrop of Taiping, Perak.

They say that first love is the sweetest thing, but even sweeter still are the tasty treats and scenic dating spots in Taiping that are featured in upcoming film The Gathering.

At least that’s what local Mandopop duo ThomasJack, who star in the made-in-Malaysia coming-of-age movie, believe.

The Gathering (known as Tong Xue Hui in Mandarin) was filmed entirely in Taiping, Perak from December 2013 to January this year. Apart from pivotal scenes at the Hua Lian High School, The Gathering also takes viewers to landmark spots such as the Taiping Lake Garden, Maxwell Hill, Perak Museum, Larut Matang Hawker Stall, Taiping Zoo and Night Safari, and the Taiping main road.

In an interview in August 2014, the dashing duo reminisced about the foot-high fruity crushed ice desserts and cool beverages that were such mouth-watering treats on sweltering hot days during the shoot.

“One of the scenes in the movie required all of us to sit down and eat some very tall watermelon crushed ice desserts. It was quite a hot day so we actually enjoyed ourselves eating our way through several desserts, even though we had to do several takes,” reveals Tan.

“Another unusual recommendation is a drink known as kaka-peng, which is a combination of coffee and barley. It’s a unique beverage that is only available at a Chinese kopitiam there,” gushes Kok.

The chatty lads, who portray a pair of 17-year-old schoolboys who fall for the same girl in the teenage flick, said the movie reminded them of their own school days and the things they did when they were 17.

Kok, who loves subjects like history, speaks of his love for dance and live performance. “I’d learn new dance steps from YouTube videos. I remember pausing the videos and practising the moves in the toilet because there wasn’t enough space in my room,” recalls Kok, who also enjoyed traditional breakfasts of coffee and half-boiled eggs as well as early morning jogs at the Taiping Lake Garden.

Tan, who prefers sports, tells of how he was persuaded to accompany a friend to an audition because the other boy was a fan of Singaporean artiste JJ Lin, who was one of the judges.


Taiwanese singer-actor Michael Huang (left) plays Jack Tan’s father.

“I got accepted to participate in an artiste training programme, where I met Thomas. He used to be heavier-set in those days as he couldn’t bear to see good food get wasted!” shares Tan, who was paired with Kok after they sang a duet together.

In The Gathering, Tan plays Fang Tai, the son of char kway teow hawker Fang Chao Ming (portrayed by Taiwanese singer-actor Michael Huang), while Kok plays Kai Feng, a newly transferred schoolboy.

Making his big screen debut in the movie, Tan says he was elated to be cast alongside an experienced veteran like Huang, whom he learnt a lot from.

“I remember having an emotional scene with my screen father that was a cause of concern for me. I was supposed to cry as we were parting soon, but somehow I could not quite get into the mood.

“Seeing that, Michael moved to pat my arm and as he squeezed it, my tears started to flow. We clinched that scene in that one take,” muses Tan, who also learnt from Huang how to lower his voice for a more heartfelt interpretation of his character.

For Kok, who was last seen as a lion dance expert in The Great Lion: Kun Seng Keng, the most memorable experience was playing a young man who was especially popular with the girls.

“That was really fun for me, because I never had so many admirers during my school days.

“Although we do receive a lot of love from our supporters, it’s only in the movie we get to enjoy that much attention from the girls,” quipped Kok, who was formerly a member of award-winning homegrown dance crew Elecoldxhot.

Scripted by Malaysian producer Ong Lay Jin, The Gathering is the feature film debut of Summer Chang, a renowned Taiwanese director of television commercials and music videos who has worked with the likes of top Chinese pop stars Eason Chan, Jacky Cheung, Nicholas Tse, Miriam Yeung, and Joey Yung.

The Gathering was playing in cinemas nationwide 04-09-2014 onwards.

— The Star – September 9, 2014