EXCLUSIVE: Tan Twan Eng’s award-winning novel set for English-language feature to be co-produced with HBO Asia.

Malaysia’s Astro Shaw has optioned Tan Twan Eng’s award-winning novel The Garden Of Evening Mists, which it plans to adapt as an English-language feature to be co-produced with HBO Asia. 

Set across three time periods, the book follows a woman who lost her sister during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia and later becomes the apprentice and lover of a Japanese gardener in the Cameron Highlands.

It was awarded the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2012 and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. 

“We see it as a project that will really showcase the best of Malaysia in terms of literature, culture and locations,” said Astro vice president, business development, Najwa Abu Bakar.

Acclaimed dramatist and actor Huzir Sulaiman is scripting the adaptation.  

The project joins a rapidly expanding production slate for Astro Shaw, the film arm of pay-TV giant Astro, which is reaching out to international markets with both commercial and festival-friendly films. 

The company is also expanding its investments into non-Malaysian projects, including Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s highly-anticipated Love In Khon Kaen and Hong Kong-set comedy ATM, directed by Kenne Yam. 

“We see this as a way to raise production quality in Malaysia and learn what works with international festivals and audiences,” said Najwa.  

Astro Shaw produces around eight to 10 movies a year across three languages  – Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Recent productions include sci-fi comedy Nova, selected for Tokyo International Film Festival, Chinese road movie The Journey and Tamil action comedy Maindhan.

The Journey is Malaysia’s top-grossing local film of all time, while Maindhan is the country’s top-grossing Tamil film of all time. 

Upcoming releases include superhero sequel Cicak Man 3, co-produced with KRU Studios; action comedy Police Evo; and romantic melodrama The Sky Of Love