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Chinese Malaysian directors sweep China's box office

Foreign filmmakers win audiences and snare prestigious festival awards

Posters for popular Malaysian films, from left, "Sheep without a Shepherd," "On Your Mark" and "Barbarian Invasion." These films are among the growing number of productions by Chinese Malaysian directors that are finding an enthusiastic audience in China. (Nikkei montage/photos courtesy of Da Huang Pictures and Astro Shaw)

KUALA LUMPUR -- Breaking down in tears, frustrated mother Moon Lee pulls her naughty child across a desolate bus station in rural East Malaysia. Alone and broke, she has no choice but to travel with her little boy to conservative Terengganu, where her longtime director friend Roger Woo wants her back on set -- something she was forced to put on hold since falling pregnant.

With its exotic photography and offbeat Malaysian setting, the opening scene of the Malaysian film "Barbarian Invasion" (2021), by Tan Chui Mui, captured a full house at the 15th FIRST film festival in Xining, the capital of remote Qinghai Province in western China, where it opened on July 25.

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