Singapore films debut at Cannes: A look in pictures

(From left) Fran Borgia and Raymond Phathanavirangoon, producers of Apprentice with director and cast at the photocall at the Cannes Film Festival.
(From left) Fran Borgia and Raymond Phathanavirangoon, producers of Apprentice with director and cast at the photocall at the Cannes Film Festival. PHOTO: MDA
Boo Junfeng, director of Apprentice, at the photocall at the Cannes Film Festival. 
Boo Junfeng, director of Apprentice, at the photocall at the Cannes Film Festival.  PHOTO: MDA
Actor Fir Rahman at the photocall at the Cannes Film Festival. 
Actor Fir Rahman at the photocall at the Cannes Film Festival. PHOTO: MDA
Actress Mastura Ahmad at the photocall at the Cannes Film Festival.
Actress Mastura Ahmad at the photocall at the Cannes Film Festival.PHOTO: MDA
Actor Wan Hanafi Su at the photocall at the Cannes Film Festival. 
Actor Wan Hanafi Su at the photocall at the Cannes Film Festival. PHOTO: MDA
K. Rajagopal (center) and cast members of A Yellow Bird - (from left) Seema Biswas, Huang Lu, Sivakumar Palakrishnan and Udaya Soundari.
K. Rajagopal (center) and cast members of A Yellow Bird - (from left) Seema Biswas, Huang Lu, Sivakumar Palakrishnan and Udaya Soundari. PHOTO: MDA
K. Rajagopal gives an emotional opening address before the world premiere of A Yellow Bird.
K. Rajagopal gives an emotional opening address before the world premiere of A Yellow Bird. PHOTO: MDA
Chinese actress Huang Lu at the premiere of A Yellow Bird at Cannes Film Festival.
Chinese actress Huang Lu at the premiere of A Yellow Bird at Cannes Film Festival. PHOTO: MDA

SINGAPORE - Two Singapore films that debuted at the Cannes Film Festival this week have earned good reviews and - in the case of one - received a standing ovation at its premiere.

The audience's positive reaction to local film-maker Boo Junfeng's sophomore feature film, Apprentice, reportedly brought the 32-year-old and others to tears.

Apprentice, a passion project which took Boo five years to make, revolves around a young prison guard, Aiman (Fir Rahman), who forges a relationship with the prison's chief executioner Rahim (Wan Hanafi Su).

Boo told The Straits Times: "The reviews have been very encouraging. People have come up to us on the streets congratulating us. It has been a wonderful experience for all of us." 

In its review, The Hollywood Reporter said the film "passes with flying colours", and praised its directorial flair and thematic complexity.

"This is not your run-of-the-mill penal drama or anti-capital punishment pamphlet - should help further consolidate Boo's own reputation as one of the region's names to watch," the review added.

 
 

"One of Apprentice's strongest selling points is how, in a very compact yet pleasingly dense way, it takes viewers into both the world of the executioners and the executed criminals' family members who remain behind, two often almost ignored categories in films touching on capital punishment."

Variety's chief international film critic, Peter Debruge, described Apprentice as "earnest yet only intermittently engaging".

He wrote: "There's a certain undeniable perversity to being offered such intimate access to Death Row, and both Boo and Aiman show enormous compassion for the prisoners who find themselves there.

"The screenplay actually goes out of its way to humanise the condemned by presenting the reactions of the family members they leave behind."

Film magazine ScreenDaily said there was a "pleasing undertow of culpability humming through every frame", and that the film was "tightly focused and ambitious in its multiple themes".

Meanwhile, director K. Rajagopal revealed how he made the star of his arthouse film, A Yellow Bird, live on the streets to research his role as an Indian man trying to rebuild his life and family after a spell in prison.

A Yellow Bird, which also touches on sensitive topics such as race, migration and sex, premiered in Cannes on Wednesday (May 18).

Television star Sivakumar Palakrishnan reportedly spent his weekends living rough on the streets of Little India, which Rajagopal, 51, described as a tough experience for the actor.

Admitting that his portrayal of Singapore might shock many, Rajagopal told AFP in an interview: "I was going for the underbelly, the marginal, because Singapore has a reputation for being modern and ordered. But there is this other side. It is a reality too."