What a proud moment it was for Singapore when local director, Anthony Chen, became the first Singaporean to win the coveted Caméra d’or (which translates to Golden Camera in English) honour at the recent Cannes Film Festival!
For those less familiar with the festival, the award is presented to the best first feature film of 60 minutes or more by a Director who has not made another film released theatrically.
His feature film, Ilo Ilo, tells the tale of a domestic helper and a family during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, and was up against 18 films from the Official Selection, Director’s Fortnight, and International Critics’ Week!
According to the jury citation for Anthony, “the director’s intelligence and sensitivity bring forth very important issues – childhood, immigration, class struggles, and the economic crisis”.
Adding to the positive review was Adley Gartenstein, President of Film Movement, the distribution company which acquired the North American rights to Ilo Ilo. He was quoted in The Hollywood Reporter as being “truly honoured to have acquired Anthony Chen’s beautiful film”.
Remember last week’s article on cultivating an environment to grow the minds of the creative lot in Singapore? Perhaps it’s not that Singapore lacks a thriving environment for artists but simply that they’re not getting proper visibility!
After all, the list of Singaporean artists that have gotten international recognition is not just limited to Anthony Chen.
In the visual arts aspect, David Tay, one of the most influential figures in Singapore photography, was the first Asian to be elected to the Directory Board of the International Federation of Photographic Art.
Not only has David received many honours for his passion for photography – including the Honorary Excellence Distinction of the International Federation of Photographic Art in 1981 and a Fellowship from The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain for excellence in illustrative photography in 1987 – he has also made significant contributions to the photography scene in Singapore.
In addition to bringing the World Press Photography exhibition to Singapore, he also spearheaded a steering committee to organise the Clickart: World Photojournalists Meet 2003. Through both events, he hoped to spark greater public interest in other fields of photography and promote a more vibrant arts scene in Singapore.
What about Minfong Ho, author of Sing to Dawn that a lot of us have used as literature text in secondary school? Her stories, based largely on the places of her childhood and her experiences of both Cambodia and Thailand in the 1970s, have won her accolades from the Cultural Medallion in Singapore, the 1996 Southeast Asian Writers Award, and the 1997 American Library Association’s Caldecott Honour Award.
Other up and coming artists who are making their marks in the international stage are Jow Zhi Wei, who was in the running for the Cinefondation Prize at the 66th Cannes Film Festival. His short film, Au-delà de l’hiver (After the winter) was one of the 18 selected among the 1,550 submitted from all over the world!
His previous short film, Waiting, was also selected for other international competitions, including the 26th Isfahan International Festival of Films for Children and Young Adults in 2012, the 11th International Film Festival Hannover, and the 21st DaKINO International Film Festival in 2011.
Boo Junfeng is yet another one to look out for. His two-channel high-definition video, Mirror, inspired by the exhumations of Bukit Brown Cemetery, was recently showcased at the 2013 edition of the President’s Young Talents (PYT) for possessing the potential for credibility and recognition in the international arts scene.
His previous works include the feature film Sandcastle, which was the first local film to be featured in the International Critics’ Week in Cannes, and also subsequently invited to film festivals in Toronto, Pusan, Vancouver, and London. It was also listed by The Wall Street Journal as one of Asia’s most notable film of 2010!
Whoever says there’s no artistic talent in Singapore hasn’t been looking hard enough! :D