Anthony Chen's short film to show at Cannes

The Break Away is part of selected anthology The Year Of The Everlasting Storm, in which film-makers tackle pandemic lockdowns

(From far left) The Break Away actress Zhou Dongyu and actor Zhang Yu with film-maker Anthony Chen (on laptop screen), who directed the film remotely from London.
(From left) The Break Away actress Zhou Dongyu and actor Zhang Yu with film-maker Anthony Chen (on laptop screen), who directed the film remotely from London.PHOTO: GIRAFFE PICTURES

The Cannes Film Festival official selection, announced on Thursday, includes a film anthology that features Singapore film-maker Anthony Chen.

His 24-minute work, The Break Away, is part of an anthology titled The Year Of The Everlasting Storm, which asks film-makers to tackle the topic of pandemic lockdowns.

Chen's film stars Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu, known for her work in the Oscar-nominated drama Better Days (2019), and Chinese actor Zhang Yu, winner of the Golden Horse for Best Leading Actor for his part in the comedy-drama Dying To Survive (2018).

Chen, 37, wrote and directed the film, which was shot in China. He directed it remotely from his home in London.

The film deals with a couple - played by Zhou, 29, and Zhang, 38 - struggling through lockdown with a young son.

In a text message from Shanghai, where Chen is going to serve on the jury of the main competition section of the Shanghai International Film Festival, he says directing remotely was "one of the most challenging tasks ever".

Everything was done through Zoom, including location scouting, casting, make-up, costume checks and rehearsals, he adds.

"It's the first time I have had to make a film this way and I also hope it's the last. But the whole team is very pleased and heartened by the results. You couldn't tell it was done remotely, but I did drive the actors nuts."

Usually held in May, the Cannes Film Festival will run from July 6 to 17 this year.

In contrast to last year's cancelled physical event, this year's in-person event is going ahead, with attendees subjected to daily health screenings unless they have proof of vaccination.

The anthology's other filmmakers are Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 50, from Thailand (the fantasy drama Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, 2010, winner of the Palme d'Or); Jafar Panahi, 60, from Iran (the drama Taxi, 2015, winner of the Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear); and Dominga Sotomayor, 36, from Chile (the drama Too Late To Die Young, 2018, Leopard for Best Direction, Locarno Film Festival).

There are also three from the United States: Laura Poitras, 57 (Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, 2015, for the biography Citizenfour); David Lowery, 40 (Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee for the drama Ain't Them Bodies Saints, 2013); and Malik Vitthal (winner of Audience Award, Sundance Film Festival, for the drama Imperial Dreams, 2014).

There is no information available yet for a Singapore release of the film.

Chen's work has appeared at Cannes twice. The short film Ah Ma won a Special Distinction prize there in 2007 and his debut feature, the drama Ilo Ilo, won the Camera d'Or in 2013.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2021, with the headline 'Anthony Chen's short film to show at Cannes'. Subscribe