Singapore work chosen for film fest in France

Wang Yuqing plays a retiree in The Drum.
Wang Yuqing plays a retiree in The Drum.PHOTO: BIRDMANDOG

Singaporean film-maker Ler Jiyuan's short film, The Drum, has been selected for competition at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France.

The festival is one of the world's most important events for short films. It is also France's second largest film festival after Cannes in terms of audience and professional attendance, drawing more than 150,000 attendees annually. It will be held next year in the central French city of Clermont-Ferrand in February.

Ler's 25-minute work is about an elderly man (played by Wang Yuqing) who finds solace in a pair of Indian drums after being forced into retirement. It will compete in the International Competition of the festival.

The Drum is one of 73 films selected to compete at the event, out of almost 8,000 submissions from around the world.

Ler, a TV director of Channel 5 series such as Code Of Law (2013) and Zero Calling (2014), tells The Straits Times: "The last time I made a short film was for a short film course I did more than 10 years ago.

"I have been doing TV work since then, so to get this kind of recognition for The Drum is just great. It's the first time for me to have a film at a festival, so I'm really excited to go to the event."

The 35-year-old's film was commissioned by the National Arts Council this year for the Silver Arts Festival, an annual event that reaches out to seniors through the arts.

After receiving the commission, he called his writer friend, Dave Chua, to write a screenplay.

Ler says: "I am a fan of Dave's work and I have adapted his stuff before, such as the telemovie Gone Case (2014). I asked him whether he had any good stories about the elderly and he said, 'Why don't I just write a screenplay for you?', which I am very thankful for.

"Once I find someone that I like and can work with, I tend to stick to the same people."

This is why he went on to cast Wang, 55, in two more of his short works after The Drum - Paper House (adapted from another of Chua's stories) as well as Cab Fight.

The director says: "There is something about Wang Yuqing's acting - it is very subtle and layered. He did a really good job in The Drum as a man who has troubles dealing with his new status as a retired man."

The announcement of Ler's entry for competition comes after a string of good news for Singaporean films overseas in recent months.

Kirsten Tan's debut feature Pop Aye was recently selected as the first Singaporean film to compete at Sundance Film Festival, the largest indie film festival in the United States, next month.

Boo Junfeng's Apprentice, which has been winning accolades since its premiere at Cannes International Film Festival in May this year, also garnered the Netpac award at Taipei's Golden Horse Film Festival last month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore work chosen for film fest in France'. Print Edition | Subscribe