Written by Baylen Whitfield
An apprentice is defined as an individual a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages or according to Dictionary.com, a person legally bound through indenture to a master craftsman in order to learn a trade. During the trip to Chicago, Illinois, with Greenville College’s Digital Seminar class, I got to view the film Apprentice. Although, at first, I had some mixed feelings about the Singaporean drama, I have to say that it was mostly my favorite film of the five I watched at the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival. Barely taking the number one spot from Kills on Wheels, Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice connected with me, as I’m sure it did with many other viewers, with its evoking sense of realism and struggle that audiences are known for identifying with. Apprentice’s plot is common and identifiable with many dramas as it displays its raw sense of one’s reality, but yet rather unique as it consists of a rather rare obstacle the main character battles.
The main character, Aiman, a 28-year-old Malay Prisons Officer who is exceptionally well working with his hands, life is followed as he receives a job working in a prison’s workshop after working in the army. But this prison isn’t an ordinary prison to Aiman. This is the same prison that hung Aiman’s father for a crime that he supposedly was not guilty for. Coincidentally enough, as Aiman moves up in the ranks of his occupation, the chief who is better know as the hangman, see’s in Aiman what he does not in other workers. Because of this, the chief eventually wants Aiman to be his assistant to help with the hanging of inmates. As if it weren’t enough to be making his living in the prison his father died in, Aiman is asked to make a decision to take a position offered by the same individual that took his father’s life. Struggling to maintain balance his life with having no family, his sister falling in love and moving to another country with her lover, trying to come to proper conclusions his logic and emotions get involved, Aiman becomes sucked in and begins assisting the chief. There’s a certain undeniable perversity to being offered such intimate access to Death Row, and both Boo and Aiman show enormous compassion for the prisoners who find themselves there. Aiman and the chief clash at moments during the film as they do not completely agree, especially when it comes to the death of Aiman’s father. Through this all, Aiman is battling many obstacles while trying to sustain his life and longevity. Eventually, in the midst of almost losing his job, Aiman received word that the chief has been in a car accident that led him to being in a coma. Because of that, Aiman is asked by the prison system to take over the chief’s position. Aiman is then faced with a decision that many of us can often identify with which is, deciding if compromising dignity and integrity is worth being able to support himself and honoring an individual that sees leadership in him. Aiman decides he will honor the chief but the audience never knows for sure of Aiman’s decisions since the credits began to roll right before he pulls the lever to perform his first hanging as the new chief. Although I enjoyed the film a lot, I still wish the film didn’t leave the audience on a cliffhanger and allowed the audience to view whether or not Aiman went through went hanging inmates or decided that he wouldn’t compromise what’s important in his life to honor someone that took a life close to his.