881 (film)

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881 Promotional Poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byRoyston Tan
Produced byDaniel Yun
Eric Khoo
James Toh
John Ho
Mike Wiluan
Written byRoyston Tan
StarringQi Yuwu
Yeo Yann Yann
Mindee Ong
Liu Lingling
Music byFunkie Monkies Productions
Poh Tiong-Cai
Robert Mackenzie
CinematographyDaniel Low
Edited byLow Hwee-Ling
Distributed byZhao Wei Films
Release date
9 August 2007 (Singapore)
Running time
105 minutes

881 is a 2007 Singaporean musical-comedy-drama film written and directed by Royston Tan, based on the Singapore Getai scene. It is the second Singaporean film that has been released in Japan.[1]

By September 13, 2007, the film had grossed over S$3 million, making it the top grossing Asian film in Singapore in 2007. It was screened at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea,[2] and was in competition at the 2007 World Film Festival of Bangkok.[3] The film was also accepted as Singapore's selection for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.[4] The film was submitted to the 44th Golden Horse Awards by Mediacorp, and received a nomination for best makeup and costume design.[5]


Guan Yin (Qi Yuwu) narrated how the Papaya sisters were born in 1982, with the Big Papaya (Yeo Yann-Yann) being a prodigy, and the Small Papaya (Mindee Ong) struggled with life and was currently battling against cancer until age 25, and on a fateful day every seventh month they met begin their career as a Getai duo after watching a performance with Chen Jin Lang.

At the modern day in 2007, after receiving advice from Aunt Ling's friends Wang Lei, Karen Lim and singers such as Kelvin Tan, the sisters asked Aunt Ling (Liu Lingling) to visit the Goddess of 'Getai' (Liu Lingling) for blessings; Aunt Ling revealed that she had been in a hiatus of Getai career for 20 years, before visiting the temple to seek the Goddess. After the sisters seeing Ling getting wrapped by the Goddess' robe for abusing, the sisters went on to beg for the goddess to perform in the stage, and were accepted with conditions to respect the spirits, getai and people alike, speaking vulgar and having a relationship are considered taboo, before being given a feather and a Pearl of Mingzhu.

After their debut performance, the Big Papaya was banished from the house after her mother (Lin Ru Ping) discovered that she had recently performing getai performance in which she forbids her to do so. She was shortly motivated to move on after she was consoled with Aunt Ling and Little Papaya. Shortly after seeing Chen's performance under a wheelchair, and the day later seeing Tan performing in the street, the sisters went to begin perform fundraising performance to raise their funds for Chen's medical fees. The following day, Aunt Ling's friends were seeing the newspaper in the coffeeshop while visiting the market, only to discover then Wang hid the newspaper and later handed over to Ling after demanding it to see; in it its headline mentions Chen won the second prize in the 4-D lottery before he died that night.

The Big Papaya however, was still depressed since her banishment from her house, but begin a relation with Guan Yin, not realizing that she was breaking a taboo. On the fifteenth day, they enjoyed a feast and prayed with the spirits, and they performed a song while sharing with the cake. Not long after, the Little Papaya was later revealed she was currently taking medication and steroids (administrated by a doctor) to keep her strength going. In Guan Yin's car, he showed a miniature paper figurine to Little Papaya and she went to doodle in it. Later, while the sisters were being measured by Guan (which was requested by Ling) for their new costumes, Guan discovered the plaster from Little Papaya's arm, but was stopped by the Big Papaya after Guan attempted to peel it off.

However, later on the night, another duo with red hair and poor Chinese language (later revealed as the Durian Sisters (May & Choy)) were revealed as jealous after watching each of the Papayas' performances and privately criticized the performances in the car, but their manager (Steve Lee) comforted them to do better with a strategy to sabotage Papayas' performance in the future, and reaching the stage first and preventing the sisters from performing. After a number of chases between the sisters to Xian Yi stage, on a performance stage featuring Wang Lei, the Papayas first accused the Durians in cutting the queue but they denied, and led to a fight only to be stopped by their respective managers and Aunt Ling, who later went to confront the Durian's manager and was backed by the stage's manager. The Durians left the site, but not long they backed with a warning message that they were tracking every movements, and they'll do whatever it takes to perform the Getai.

The following day, they then visited a temple to receive another offering and trying to outwit Durian Sisters along with other people who also went to receive offering. The Big Papaya returned to her home, and noticed that the doors were open; her father (Johnny Ng) allowed her to enter the home, and told that her mother was currently out shopping for groceries. After her mother returned home, she offered the money to her as appreciation only to reject it by throwing the money back to her, still not as appreciate her getai performance despite her singing talent; her father told Big Papaya not to be concerned, before proceeding to lecture her mother, which was overheard by Big Papaya that her mother was used to be a Getai singer.

On a recent Getai performance, the Durians reached the stage first before throwing a shuriken to the Papayas and accompany by booing from the audience. Deciding that the sisters had enough of chasing and argument, the Durians issued a duel to see whichever sisters were the better performer, which they accepted. The Durians told that the challenge will be held on the 30th night at Li Xing stage, with the losing duo permanently retiring from Getai. After the Durians left the stage, Little Papaya fainted and shortly admitted to the hospital, and newspaper articles between the sister's feud were shown in headlines.

After Ling, Big Papaya and Guan visited Small Papaya, but not long Guan decided to sell his chicken he was holding all along, for money to pay off medical bills. After being discharged, both sisters went to campaign in different platforms and also rehearsing strongly. On their recent visiting to the Goddess, they explained on their current situation and suffering, notably on their efforts with Ling; the goddess blessed them, but also further noted about the limitation on how she can do, and how their actions and karma will affect their overall performance. Aunt Ling then talk to the Goddess and later revealed that Ah Long, one of her friends, was actually the manager working for Durians.

On the 30th night, Lin Li hosted the Li Xing stage and the duel, and the results are solely decided by the audience itself. After the Durians led their first performance, Lin noticed the Papayas were nowhere to be seen and were stuck in a traffic jam; The referee is about to disqualify the Papayas for not showing up, but they barely arrives in the nick of time and began their first performance.

On the second performance, the Durians revealed that they kidnapped Karen prior to the show, and led her in their performance; midway through, while the Durian sisters attack the Papayas with their iron-cladded bras, Karen and the Papaya Sisters fought back with their respective weapons, before performing their second song, sung by both sisters.

After the third song by the Papayas, the audience gave an ovation to them, but not long before the Durian Sisters sung a swan song before proceeding to shoot a spirit arrow onto the Sisters and fell on the ground. The Big Papaya managed to stand, but the Little Papaya does not, and was warded in the hospital one last time.

Distraught, Big Papaya begged the Goddess of Getai for assistance to save Little Papaya but refused to do so because of a relationship taboo she violated. After many people visited her deathbed, the sisters embraces each other for the last time before the Little Papaya dies.

Guan Yin narrated that he had never since his mother ever since the Little Papaya's passing. Three years later, Big Papaya paired with another singer and performed together, now with her mother watching in the mosh pit. Guan Yin ended his narration by mentioning that he looks forward to every seventh month, as that is the only time they can all be together.

During the credits, Guan was watching the photos that he took before allowing the feather to fly off up in the sky, in the sky was another singer (presumedly Little Papaya) catching it.[6]


  • Mindee Ong as Little Papaya
  • Yeo Yann-Yann as Big Papaya
  • Liu Lingling as Goddess of 'Getai' (Xiangu) / Aunt Ling
  • Qi Yuwu as Guan Yin
  • Kelvin Tan as Chen Weilian
  • Wang Lei as Wang Lei
  • Teh May-Wan and Teh Choy-Wan as Durian Sisters


The film's story was originally conceived as a joke after Royston and the two lead actresses agreed that Getai was one of Singapore's uniquely Singaporean cultural attributes.[7]

It took Royston Tan 22 days to produce the film and only two weeks to write it, which, according to him, was the easiest and fastest script he has written.[1] The large variety of costumes used in the production cost upwards of S$100,000.

Critical reception[edit]

Even before its official release, 881 garnered good reviews from critics[8]


The official soundtrack was released the evening before the show opened, on August 8. Produced by Eric Ng of Funkie Monkies Productions, the soundtrack consists of 15 songs (1 hidden) and 4 music videos. The theme song, One Half, is sung by Wu Jiahui. A second volume of the original soundtrack has since been released with 18 songs.

Egg pelting incident[edit]

While promoting the film from a truck on Orchard Road, the cast was pelted with eggs by an unidentified assailant riding pillion. Lead actress Mindee Ong later suffered from an eye infection from the attack. No charges were pressed.[9]


  1. ^ a b c "Singapore film by Royston Tan to be screened in Japan" Archived 2007-08-23 at the Wayback Machine Channelnewsasia. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  2. ^ "Channelnewsasia.com". Channelnewsasia.com. 2007-09-13. Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
  3. ^ Ten films, offering a variety of viewpoints, are gathered together in the Harvest of Talents Archived 2007-10-21 at the Wayback Machine, The Nation (Thailand); retrieved 2007-10-25
  4. ^ 63 films qualify for foreign Oscar category Archived 2007-10-20 at the Wayback Machine, Hollywood Reporter; retrieved 2007-10-13
  5. ^ The 44th Golden Horse Award Competition Nominees Archived 2007-10-29 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 2007-10-30
  6. ^ "881 | Synopsis". Zhaowei.com. Archived from the original on 2011-09-03. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
  7. ^ " Interview: Royston Tan and Gary Goh" Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine Interview: Royston Tan and Gary Goh
  8. ^ "Roystan Tan's latest film 881 gets good reviews ahead of premiere" Archived 2007-08-23 at the Wayback Machine Channelnewsasia. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  9. ^ "Was attack DIRTY DEED or PR STUNT?". Archived from the original on 5 April 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2019.

External links[edit]