SINGAPORE - Film-maker Anthony Chen has announced his next project: a drama set during the pandemic.
We Are All Strangers, his third feature film, will begin production in Singapore in 2022. In a report published in entertainment trade publication Deadline, the project will reunite Chen, 36, with Yeo Yann Yann, 43, and Koh Jia Ler, 20, actors who have appeared in both his previous films, the dramas Ilo Ilo (2013) and Wet Season (2019).
The film will continue writer-director Chen's exploration of social class and family relationships as these come under pressure during the pandemic. Production will commence after the end of Koh's National Service, according to the report.
In a text message from London, where he is based, Chen says that the new film will be "the third and final film of my Growing Up trilogy", following Ilo Ilo and Wet Season.
"I filmed Jia Ler at 11 and then again at 17, so it felt like a natural step to capture him approaching adulthood," he says.
He adds that he is "excited" to be reuniting with Yeo and Koh.
Explaining the ideas that tie the three films, Chen says: "I have always been fascinated by the bonds and intimate connections struck between strangers and how kinship can be developed beyond blood ties. The idea of constructed families is a theme I have explored in both of my films."
For example, in Ilo Ilo, it was between the Filipino maid and the young Singaporean boy she cares for, while in Wet Season, a teacher and her student form a family unit with her half-paralysed father-in-law, he says.
We Are All Strangers will expand on those ideas. "This time, strangers are forced to become family," he says.
In 2013, Ilo Ilo earned the Camera d'Or award for Chen at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Singapore feature film to win an award at Cannes.
In the film, Yeo's character Hwee Leng was the mother of Jiale, played by Koh. Yeo's performance won the Golden Horse Award for Best Supporting Actress in Taipei and the film was also selected as Singapore's entry to the 86th Academy Awards, held in 2014.
Wet Season was also chosen as the nation's entry in this year's Academy Awards (2021) in the International Feature Film category.
The film, written and directed by Chen, stars Yeo and Koh as a teacher and student respectively, each coping with emotional stresses at home.
At the 56th Golden Horse Awards, held in 2019, the film earned six nominations, including Best Feature Film and Best Director for Chen. It won one award, for Yeo, who took home the Best Leading Actress prize for her portrayal of the teacher, Ling.