• Jamie Morris

One to Watch: Apprentice


This powerful gem leaves the viewer with a lot to think about…


In Singapore, the death penalty is supported by an estimated 80% of the population, making Boo Junfeng’s death row drama a daring topic for its domestic audience. In countries where the consensus differs, however, Apprentice is still a challenging watch, albeit likely for different reasons.


The Singaporean film follows an ex-soldier named Aiman (Firdaus Rahman) who gets a job at a prison and becomes the apprentice of the hangman who executed his father. It’s a movie filled with ambiguity around what exactly is going on in the characters’ heads – is this career move an attempt by Aiman to better understand his father’s final moments, or a means of repenting for his sins? Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

Boo’s minimalist directorial style and impartial approach successfully allow Apprentice to weigh in on its controversial focal debate without casting judgement on either side

The hangman, Rahim (Wan Hanafi Su), is similarly difficult to read. He’s an unexpectedly compassionate and gentle character, but it’s hard not to be unnerved by the detached, pragmatic nature in which he talks about ending people’s lives. Boo has revealed the idea for Rahim’s characterisation was inspired by interviews he helwith former hangmen which made him “rethink everything”.

“I had already started to write [the film], but after I met the first hangman I couldn't write for three months. What completely threw me was how much I enjoyed his company,” Boo told the press after the film’s Cannes premiere. “He took pride in the almost caring way he looked after the prisoners trying to make it as humane as he could, and I realised how difficult that was. He really shook up my ideas.”


Boo’s minimalist directorial style and impartial approach successfully allow Apprentice to weigh in on its controversial focal debate without casting judgement on either side. Regardless of the viewer’s own stance, this is a film that will open your eyes up to a new perspective.