Singapore Films Reflect Many Cultures

Directors Boo Jun-feng, K. Rajagopal and Kirsten Tan have taken the unbeaten path in their artistic endeavors, reflecting their individualism, moral complexity and empathy for outsiders. Their films “Apprentice,” “A Yellow Bird” and “Pop Aye,” respectively, have done Singapore proud, earning accolades at key fests such as Cannes and Sundance.

They are also expressing a global mindset in their focus on diversity in Singaporean society, and through a small-scale but personalized model of co-production across Asia. This is a path and attitude leading the way in the island state’s burgeoning independent film industry — shared by other upcoming film projects releasing in 2017.

Anthony Chen, whose “Ilo Ilo” was the first Singaporean film to win the Camera D’Or in Cannes, was exec producer on “Pop Aye.” His company, Giraffe Pictures, was founded in 2014, as a result of the lessons learned from having to co-produce his own film. The company has also completed an omnibus film, “Distance,” shot across Taiwan, China, Thailand and Singapore by directors from those regions.

“Our mission is to protect the voices of young, talented young Southeast Asian filmmakers we admire and help them with development, financing and production,” says Chen. He claims to put a strong focus on development, which he felt is lacking, sometimes even absent in Asia.

The emerging filmmakers that Chen and his producer Weijie Lai are fostering include Chiang Wei Liang, Shijie Tan, Nelicia Low and Le Bao. The latter is one some consider a Vietnamese visionary whose project is about a Nigerian trying to support his family by joining a soccer team in Ho Chi Minh City.

The company is also developing a TV series. “As with our ethos, these projects are very much filmmaker-driven,” says Lai. Chen is also returning to directing this year.

Twenty-two years after he debuted with the murky “Mee Pok Man,” Eric Khoo is making a second noodle film…

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