Richard Johns’ Argo Films has formed Sympatico, a new partnership with Double Vision, the award-winning Malaysian production company headed by Min Lim that is responsible for Asian versions of hit global drama series The Bridge and Liar.

Johns and Lim have a “mutual ambition for Sympatico to develop and produce bold, authentic and entertaining film and television content that smashes stereotypes and organically integrates East and West for global audiences.”

Min Lim, head of production at Double Vision and partner in Sympatico said: “Too often, Southeast Asia has been portrayed in a mix of styles on screen with, for example, iconic establishing shots of Kuala Lumpur ‘s Twin Towers soon giving way to a location that resembles Vietnam, mixed with Hong Kong by way of Vancouver. And stories set here are frequently told from a Western perspective with ‘white saviour’ characters leading the charge, side-lining local voices. Richard and I are equally passionate about authenticity: so, if we have a production set in Malaysia it will be filmed here, and the characters will speak proper Malay. And more importantly, we will have Asian characters as true and equal leads in stories that are as much about them and their country as it is about their Western counterparts. To this end, every title on the Sympatico slate has both Southeast Asian and British writers and creatives working closely together to ensure that they will be nothing less than true collaborations.”

Richard Johns, founder of Argo Films and partner in Sympatico said: “A chance introduction to Min Lim has subsequently opened up a world of new international opportunity for both of us and I feel very lucky to be working with her, creating Sympatico and developing a type of fresh scripted content that’s rarely been seen before.

“Strategically, Southeast Asia is certainly a region to watch and well-placed to deliver ‘the next big thing’. Not only do territories such as Malaysia have their own unique culture, people and locations but it also has an industrious and skilled production sector and a highly competitive film and TV production incentive. After exploring the region’s potential for myself and knowing Min’s vision and determination to work these assets in the international marketplace, Sympatico is on course to deliver some cracking scripted content with the sort of high production values, distinctive stories and universal themes that are essential for broadcasters and streamers looking to offer something different to their audiences.”

The new JV already has projects in advanced development on the slate including:

Emergency (limited series) – a gripping espionage thriller, in partnership with Fremantle, that tells the story of the world’s first campaign to win the argument as well as the war. Set in a 1951 Malaya battling for independence and inspired by real events, it follows a controversial British SAS commander and a local undercover agent in a Communist unit in a race against time to stop all-out war.

The Last Kapitan (series) – in the cultural melting pot that is 1920s British colonial Penang, the son of the island’s reigning Kapitan Cina and leader of the island’s Chinese community returns from the dead to exact revenge on the man who wronged him years ago — his father.

Cabut (film) – after a robbery goes wrong, four Malaysian thieves crash into an American expat family’s minivan and hold them hostage in their own home. But all is not what it seems; this ‘average’ family is a collection of twisted serial killers.

Killing Time (film) – a Malaysia-set remake of Richard Johns’ cult classic thriller about a deadly female assassin who sets out to avenge the gangster boss who betrayed her and almost got her killed.

Tudung Girl (film) – Die Hard meets High Noon in this modern-day western where an underestimated and overlooked young Muslim woman tries to keep her family and neighbours alive when four assassins come to town, looking to kill everyone.

Berjalai (film) – based on actual events, a local Iban tracker and a British solider – two survivors of a Communist ambush during the Malayan Emergency of the 1950s – are hunted through the jungle. Can they work together to stay one step ahead of the enemy?


Jon Creamer

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