Singaporean director Boo Junfeng’s film Apprentice, which offers viewers a chance to look at death penalty from an executioner’s point of view, received a standing ovation at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The 32-year-old director was in India this month to screen the film at the Dharamshala International Film Festival.
The film focuses on a young prisons officer, from the ethnic Malay minority group, who befriends an older colleague, the chief executioner. As their relationship grows, their backstories slowly come to light. A secret from the young prisons officer’s past underlines his dilemma as he is asked to assist the chief in carrying out executions.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Singapore, and executions are carried out with the long-drop hanging method. While Singapore amended its laws to exempt some cases from the mandatory death sentence while boosting enforcement in 2012, the penalty stayed, with discretionary measures now given to judges.
The need for the death penalty in Singapore, one of the few developed countries in Asia, should be debated, but it’s not even an issue that is discussed, said Boo in an exclusive interview with The Diplomat. Perhaps the sense of public safety and prosperity in this country have come at the cost of human rights, he agreed.