'Best angpao ever' for film-maker as she picks up first-ever Sundance award won by a S'porean

30 January 2017 / 3 months 3 weeks ago

Boon Chan and Chew Hui Min
The Straits Times
30 January 2017

Film-maker Kirsten Tan picked up the first-ever Sundance award won by a Singaporean yesterday.

It was the "best hongbao ever!" she told The Straits Times.

Her debut feature film Pop Aye won the Special Jury award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition for its screenplay at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Pop Aye, which premiered at Sundance on Jan 19 to glowing reviews, follows a disenchanted Thai architect and his elephant on their journey across Thailand in search of the farm where they grew up together.

The film, which is in Thai with English subtitles, is the first feature by a Singaporean film-maker to receive a nod from the World Cinema Grand Jury.

"I was literally in the shower when I got a call from Trevor Groth, director of programming at Sundance. I rang him back as soon as I got out of the bathroom," New York-based Tan said.

"When I heard the news, it was pure emotion. A screenwriting jury award from Sundance is huge. I did a tiny victory dance in my bedroom. No words, just pure elation and pure feeling."

The 35-year-old,who took three years to write, research, cast and shoot the movie, said she has no time to celebrate as she is flying to the Rotterdam International Film Festival today.

"But to know that the story of the film moved the heart of the jury members at Sundance is celebration in itself for me," she said.

The film has already been picked up for distribution in North America.

Award-winning Singaporean di- rector Anthony Chen is the executive director of Pop Aye.

"This is a great validation of what we do at Giraffe Pictures - supporting and nurturing young talented film-makers from Singapore and the region with a strong focus on script development," he said.

Giraffe Pictures is his film production company.

Sundance has been the launchpad for many independent films and film-makers, and past award winners include Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and Boyhood (2014).

Tan graduated with a master's in film production at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, in September 2014.

She had earlier graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with an advanced diploma in film production in 2005.

Her short films, Dahdi (Granny, 2014), Fonzi (2007) and 10 Minutes Later (2006) had won several accolades in Singapore and abroad.

Pop Aye also won Torino Film Lab's top production prize of €60,000 (S$92,000) in 2014.

See photos related to the article in the gallery below. 

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