Magazine article Screen International

Anthony Chen, Ilo Ilo

Magazine article Screen International

Anthony Chen, Ilo Ilo

Article excerpt

Singaporean director Anthony Chen hits close to home by drawing on childhood memories for his debut feature, Ilo Ilo.

Since winning the Camera d'Or at Cannes this year for his debut feature Ilo Ilo, Singaporean director Anthony Chen has been on a roll.

The film, which is Singapore's entry to the best foreign-language film category at the Oscars, has picked up a slew of further prizes, including best first feature at the BFI London Film Festival, best film and actress (Yeo Yann Yann) at Vladivostok, and best director and actress in Mumbai. Now the film has won four prizes including best feature at the Golden Horse Awards and Chen is nominated in the Asia Pacific Screen Awards' achievement in directing category.

In France, Ilo Ilo, has racked up more than 82,000 admissions to become the most successful Singaporean film of all time. Also a hit in Singapore, it has been sold to about 20 territories by sales agent Memento Films. Film Movement has North American rights.

A quiet family drama about a domestic helper from the Philippines and the family she works for in Singapore, Ilo Ilo packs a punch with its assured directing style and carefully drawn characters. Although the son of the family initially torments the new maid, he slowly forms a bond with her, an emotional shift that is introduced without melodrama.

Set during the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the film shows the subtle ways in which big events can have an impact on 'little' people.

"I've always been interested in characters and people," says Chen, speaking to Screen following the screening in Mumbai. "I'm less interested in plot -- or at least in finding devices to move the story along. It's our humanity that connects us with cinema and of course with each other as humans and individuals."

Finding his voice

The film is surprisingly mature for a 29-year-old film-maker -- but then Chen is quick to point out that he started early. He made his first short film, G-23, while studying at Singapore's Ngee Ann Polytechnic. His second short, Grandma, screened at Cannes. More award-winning shorts followed, and he was accepted into the UK's National Film & Television School (NFTS), where he made English-language road movie Lighthouse as his graduation film. …

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