Home-grown director Anthony Chen’s first feature film, Ilo Ilo, premiered to a 15-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday night.
Although there were some technical glitches, which caused the film to stop screening thrice, the 800-strong audience stayed on.
They even joined in to sing a birthday song when the film stopped midway in a birthday-celebration scene.
When My Paper contacted the 29-year-old film-maker, who is in Cannes, Chen said the standing ovation was surreal.
“I was still recovering from the trauma of the technical glitches, but it soon became clear to us that the audience really loved the film.
There were tears in their eyes, it spoke to them.
“Despite being set in a country foreign to them, they felt that (the film) was universal and could relate to it,‘ he said.
Ilo Ilo, which stars veteran television actor Chen Tianwen and actress Yeo Yann Yann, is about a Singapore family and its newly-arrived Filipino maid, played by Angeli Bayani, in the midst of the 1997 Asian
Chen said the film, which was conceptualised three years ago, had its difficulties.
One of the obstacles was casting its lead child actor.
Chen spent 10 months casting and auditioned 2,000 children from 21 schools.
He finally settled on 12-year-old Koh Jia Ler.
As the, story is set in the 1990s, another difficulty was looking for filming locations in Singapore.
“A big part of the design of the film (such as the colours, the costumes, the hair, the props) was from my memory, my memory of growing up in the 1990s, so I wanted very much to recreate something that felt
honest and authentic.
I pushed the team very hard,‘ said Chen.
Ilo Ilo is in the running for the Camera d’Or prize, or best first feature film, which will be announced next Sunday.
Chen is no stranger to Cannes.
He is the first home-grown director to win the Special Mention award in 2007 for his short film Ah Ma, which was also nominated for the Palme d’Or for Short Film.
The local release date for Ilo Ilo has not been confirmed.