Ilo Ilo director Anthony Chen creates opportunities for film-makers he admires

Singapore film-maker Anthony Chen at a press conference held at the ArtScience Museum on Dec 12, 2014.
Singapore film-maker Anthony Chen at a press conference held at the ArtScience Museum on Dec 12, 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Ilo Ilo director Anthony Chen, Singapore's most highly acclaimed film-maker, says his success has been at least partly due to luck.

"There are so many wonderfully talented film-makers in Singapore and around Asia, but who just have not been as lucky as I have been.

"While I cannot create luck for them, I can create opportunities for them," he said at a local press event on Friday (May 27) to promote his new project.

The movie Distance, which opens on Thursday (June 2), is an omnibus which he executive produced under his movie production company Giraffe Pictures, but he left directing duties to three rising Asian film-makers: Singapore's Tan Shijie, China's Xin Yukun, and Thailand's Sivaroj Kongsakul. Each of the three directors helms one segment of the film on the theme of distance.

Chen, 32, said: "All three are directors whose work I admire, and they deserve to have their work seen.

"Having experienced the struggles of a young film-maker myself while making Ilo Ilo, I've always wanted to set up a home such as Giraffe Pictures to support other talented young film-makers in the region. This new film is the start."

Chen's debut feature film, the acclaimed drama Ilo Ilo (2013), had bagged a string of international awards, including the prestigious Camera d'Or at Cannes International Film Festival and the Golden Horse Award for Best Picture.

His impact on Distance has been great, said Taiwanese actor Chen Bo-lin, who is the leading man in all three segments of the film.

The 32-year-old heart-throb, who is best known for his Taiwanese drama In Time With You (2011), was also at the press event. He said in Mandarin of producer Chen: "Anthony is an executive producer that is hard to beat. He's extremely diligent and he cares a lot about the project. He's always the first to be on the set and the last to leave."

As for Singaporean director Tan, 34, he said that he has learnt to be more direct in the way he instructs actors after working with producer Chen.

Tan, who won the Best Singapore Short Film award at the Singapore International Film Festival in 2014 for Not Working Today, said: "When I direct, I tend to work with actors in such a way where I lead them slowly to where I want them to be.

"Anthony, however, is more direct. He will say exactly what he wants. I think I've taken away a bit of that from him."

In response, Anthony Chen said with a laugh: "That's because I'm more impatient. Shijie is such a careful film-maker that he can have 20 takes for a single scene. Meanwhile, I'm on the side just worrying because time is running out of the filming day."