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Homegrown movies: More than 100 made-in-Singapore films since the 1990s

Published on Nov 25, 2013 8:35 PM

Family drama Ilo Ilo’s glittery win of four trophies at the Golden Horse Awards over the weekend has put Singapore films squarely under the spotlight.

Since 1995, there have been just over 100 homegrown movies.

Eric Khoo’s seminal Mee Pok Man that year – about a noodle seller obsessed with a prostitute – is often regarded as the film which sparked a resurgence of modern Singapore cinema.

Straits Times movie reviewer John Lui names Ilo Ilo as one of his favourites because of its "realism, simplicity, and honesty".

A montage of Singapore-made films. From top, left to right: Ah Boys To Men, Money No Enough, Mee Pok Man, 12 Storeys, 4:30, Ilo Ilo, Be With Me, Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, Singapore GaGa, Homerun, TalkingCock The Movie, The Maid. -- ST FILE PHOTOS

The movie's theme - a family's relationship with its foreign domestic worker - is something that brings up conflicting feelings in Singaporeans, he said.

Fellow ST reviewer Boon Chan, however, gave his vote to Sandcastle (2010) by Boo Junfeng for its poignant storytelling and "nicely naturalistic" acting, while Life! deputy editor Ong Sor Fern likes Singapore GaGa (2006) by Tan Pin Pin for being a kooky, cool "crazy quilt of vignettes united by the common theme of Singapore's soundscapes".

Correspondents from The Straits Times Life! section reveal their favourite Singapore movie.

Boon Chan: My favourite is Sandcastle (2010), by Boo Junfeng. Having honed his craft and voice over a number of well-received short films, his debut feature proved to be both sensitive and assured. This applies to Anthony Chen and Ilo Ilo - as well as fellow Ngee Ann Polytechnic alumnus Boo Junfeng and Sandcastle.

Boo explores personal and national history with a deeply humane touch in this family drama about a young man uncovering his father’s student activist past. The storytelling is poignant and the performances nicely naturalistic.

Poetic and heartfelt, Sandcastle fulfils the promise of his short films and marks the start of a feature film career to watch.

John Lui: I will cheat and name two, both of which came out this year.

1. Sex.Violence.FamilyValues by writer-director Ken Kwek made the news for its racial jokes but the censorship fuss has obscured how interesting a film it is. It is a landmark movie. It is in English (a risky move, commercially), and it tries to reflect how real Singaporeans talk when they talk about sex and race, something which has not been done before. I am glad it got a cinema release this year, after being stuck in censorship limbo for months.

2. Ilo Ilo - by Anthony Chen. A film that stands out for its realism, simplicity, and honesty. Its topic - a family's relationship with its foreign domestic worker - is something that brings up conflicting feelings in Singaporeans (guilt, relief, exasperation, frustration). Chen has found a way to talk about one family's complicated feelings about its maid, and vice versa, in a powerful and eloquent manner.

Ong Sor Fern: My pick is Singapore GaGa (2006), by Tan Pin Pin. Kooky and cool, Singaporean documentary film-maker Tan Pin Pin's film is a crazy quilt of vignettes united by the common theme of Singapore's soundscapes.

As her camera wanders from the high art of Singaporean Margaret Leng-Tan, filmed in a HDB void deck playing John Cage's landmark 4'33'', to the simple singsong ditty of a tissue paper peddler, Pin Pin celebrates both the rare eccentric and the common man of Singapore.

I love how inclusive her film is, how expansive Singapore feels in its clear-eyed vision, and how sneakily subversive the movie is, combining a critical eye with a warm heart. Makes me go all gooey about my homeland.

Here's a complete list of commercially released narrative feature films starting from the 1990s, their directors, and our favourite movies.


Taxi! Taxi!
Kelvin Sng

Ah Boys To Men 2
Jack Neo

Love… And Other Bad Habits
Lee Thean-jeen

Red Numbers
Dom Ow

Ghost Child
Gilbert Chan

Ken Kwek

Judgment Day
Ong Kuo Sin

That Girl In Pinafore
Chai Yee Wei

Ilo Ilo
Anthony Chen

3 Peas In A Pod
Michelle Chong


Dance, Dance, Dragon
Kat Goh

We Not Naughty
Jack Neo

Timeless Love
Dasmond Koh & Lim Koong Hwee

Ghost on Air
Cheng Ding An

Greedy Ghost
Boris Boo

Steve Cheng

My Ghost Partner
Huang Yiliang

My Dog Dou Dou
Ng Say Yong

Ah Boys To Men
Jack Neo


The Ghost Must Be Crazy
Mark Lee, Boris Boo

It's A Great Great World
Kelvin Tong

Lee Thean-jeen

Wee Li Lin

Perfect Rivals
Han Yew Kwang

The Ultimate Winner
Li Nanxing

Chai Yee Wei

Eric Khoo

Gilbert Chan

Already Famous
Michelle Cheong


Being Human
Jack Neo

Happy Go Lucky
Harry Yap

Kelvin Tong

24 Hours of Anger (Gurushetram)
TT Dhavamani

Phua Chu Kang The Movie
Boris Boo

Boo Junfeng

Haunted Changi
Tony Kern

Love Cuts
Gerald Lee


Love Matters
Jack Neo and Gilbert Chan

Ho Tzu Nyen

Where Got Ghost
Jack Neo

Blood Ties
Chai Yee Wei

The Blue Mansion
Glen Goei


Ah Long Pte Ltd
Jack Neo

The Leap Years
Jean Yeo

Rule No. 1
Kelvin Tong

Money No Enough
Jack Neo

12 Lotus
Royston Tan

Kallang Roar The Movie
Cheng Ding An

My Magic
Eric Khoo

The Days
Boi Kwong

The Carrot Cake Conversations
Michael Wang


Just Follow Law
Jack Neo

Legend Of The Sea
Benjamin Toh

Men In White
Kelvin Tong

Gone Shopping
Wee Li Lin

Royston Tan

Becoming Royston
Nicholas Chee

Truth Be Told
Teo Eng Tiong


Zodiac: The Race Begins
Edward Foo

I Not Stupid Too
Jack Neo

Smell of Rain
Gloria Chee

Love Story
Kelvin Tong

Unarmed Combat
Han Yew Kwang

Royston Tan

Gilbert Chan & Joshua Chiang

The High Cost of Living
Leonard Lai Yok Wai

Singapore Dreaming
Woo Yen Yen & Colin Goh


I Do, I Do
Jack Neo

Kuo Jian Hong


The Maid
Kelvin Tong

One More Chance
Jack Neo

Be With Me
Eric Khoo


The Best Bet
Jack Neo

Clouds In My Coffee
Gallen Mei


City Sharks
Esan Sivalingam

Twilight Kitchen
Gerald Lee

Jack Neo

Royston Tan


I Not Stupid
Jack Neo

TalkingCock The Movie
Colin Goh


The Tree
Daisy Chan

Return To Pontianak

A Sharp Pencil
Gallen Mei

One Leg Kicking
Wei Koh & Eric Khoo


Crazy People
Arthero Lin

Stories About Love
CheeK, Nizam & James Toh

Chicken Rice War


Lucky Number
Lam Po Ko

Liang Po Po - The Movie
Teng Bee Lian

Where Got Poblem
J. P. Tan

That One Not Enough
Jack Neo

Eating Air
Kelvin Tong & Jasmine Ng


Forever Fever
Glen Goei

Money No Enough
Tay Teck Lock

Tiger's Whip
Victor Khoo

Teenage Textbook
Philip Lim


A Road Less Travelled
Lim Suat Yen

12 Storeys
Eric Khoo


Army Daze
Ong Keng Sen


Mee Pok Man
Eric Khoo