I can’t wait for it to happen – a Jack Neo film which isn’t a sermon about how to be a good Singaporean. Titled Long Long Time Ago, filming is slated to start in July and scheduled to be released on February 4, 2016 – just in time for the Chinese New Year movie season.

Just on Friday, multi-million homegrown director Jack Neo unveiled the cast members of his $5 million endeavour: leading actors are Wang Lei, Aileen Tan and Mark Lee; with Suhaimi Yusof (Police & Thief), Jing Jing Ah Ma, Ryan Lian, Cynthia Kong, Benjamin Tan Junming, Charmaine Sei and Silvarajoo Prakasam in supporting roles.

The cast of Long Long Time Ago from left: Benjamin Tan Junming, Wang Lei, Jing Jing Ah Ma, Aileen Tan, Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Charmaine Sei, Silvarajoo, Ryan Lim and SXXS

The cast of Long Long Time Ago from left: Benjamin Tan Junming, Wang Lei, Jing Jing Ah Ma, Aileen Tan, Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Charmaine Sei, Silvarajoo Prakasam, Ryan Lim and Cynthia Kong

The film aspires to annotate a particularly evocative part of Singapore’s post-independence history from 1965 to 1978. During this period, 80 per cent of the Republic’s population was involved in what Neo calls the 大搬家 (The Great Move House), which saw kampung (Malay for “village”) dwellers being forced to move en masse into spiffy Housing Board (HDB) flats. The story centres on Zhao Di (MediaCorp actress Aileen Tan), the tragic heroine who struggles to make ends meet despite a misogynistic father (veteran getai singer Wang Lei) and a brattish younger brother (comedian Mark Lee).

Here are five things you need to know about Jack Neo’s second “period” film (the first one being Homerun, 2004):

1. The movie set is located in a village in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Jack Neo scoured all of Singapore to find the perfect “kampung” set but unfortunately, even Kampung Buangkok and Pulau Ubin are too modern to remotely resemble a rustic Singapore in the mid-sixties. After the artistic team found their dream set (comprising one house and the surrounding land) in Ipoh, they revamped it to make it look dilapidated. At the end of filming, they are supposed to restore it to its original glory. Oh, and Neo’s J-Team is growing vegetables on the plot of land in front of the house for added authenticity.

2. Much of the movie will be in dialect, specifically – Hokkien.

To accurately portray the lives of the common man during that era, much of the dialogue will be in Hokkien, Teochew, Malay and Tamil. Of course, to please the censorship board, actors will also be speaking English and Chinese. As someone who grew up after the Speak Mandarin Campaign was kickstarted in 1979, I hope that there will be both English and Chinese subtitles.

3. Wang Lei, 54, took two weeks to prepare himself to look the part of the role he will play.

Wang, who has been a calefare in five other Jack Neo movies, had to go for a major makeover in order to look old enough to be 48-year-old Aileen Tan’s father.He said that it. His hair has been bleached several times to achieve a platinum silver shade; he did something to his teeth; he’s grown a nice moustache. Jing Jing Ah Ma (age unknown but definitely way older than 54), who will play his wife in the movie, will be made over to appear younger, so they will look convincing as a couple.

4. The script has been in the writing for more than two years.

Neo said that the script has been in the writing even before Ah Boys To Men 3: Frogmen. It has been revised “a few times” because Neo felt that it lacked the proper “feel” of a Singapore kampung. Now that he’s finally happy with the script, he has decided to proceed with filming.

5. Neo, 55, and two of his main leading actors, used to be kampung boys.

Neo used to live in Kampung Chai Chee, Wang lived in Kampung Lim Chu Kang and Lee, 46, lived in Kampung Choa Chu Kang. Leading lady Aileen Tan lived in a HDB flat but used to visit her aunt who lived in Kampung Lorong Chuan.

When asked what was the one thing all of them remember best about living in a kampung: it was about having to use an outhouse as a lavatory. Forget toilet bowls – you had to balance yourself in a squatting position on two planks of wood placed just wide apart enough. Human waste would be collected in a pit under the planks – and Neo  even remembers that there were pigs in the pit happily feeding on the nightsoil.

While the script is not based on any particular true story, some scenes in the movie will aim to re-enact occurrences unique to kampungs in Singapore during the 1960s. Neo remembers the anti-riot police in action while he was a little boy. “They came out in ‘ang chia’ (Hokkien for red cars) and they would always appear in a set of three. One night I saw the police chasing down members of the secret society and physically tackling them. They were forceful,” he reminisced.

Wang recalls how forlorn and poignant he felt when he was ordered to evict his home in the kampung within a week and move to his new flat. “For three days, I sat there with my chickens, ducks, dogs and cats. At the time people were not allowed to keep pets in HDB flats, and the thought of having to leave them all behind brought up unspeakable emotions,” he said while trying to keep his voice from breaking.