Director Anthony Chen making English-language feature debut with Drift

Anthony Chen says that his creative input into the stories, make films like Drift "as personal as any film I have made". PHOTO: ANTHONY CHEN/INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE - Singapore film-maker Anthony Chen is in Greece working on a project that will become his first English-language feature.

The film, Drift, stars English actress Cynthia Erivo (the thriller Bad Times At The El Royale, 2018; heist film Widows, 2018) and American actress Alia Shawkat (the sitcoms Search Party, 2016 to 2022; and Arrested Development, 2003 to 2019).

The film, adapted from Alexander Maksik's 2013 novel A Marker To Measure Drift by Maksik and screenwriter Susanne Farrell, is expected to be completed in 2023.

It tells the story of Jacqueline (played by Erivo) who flees to Greece and survives on menial labour while coping with mental trauma stemming from experiences in her war-torn homeland of Liberia.

Chen, 38, tells The Straits Times that the shoot in Greece will wrap in a few days.

Besides being his first English-language film to be released, he says that Drift is among the projects he has worked on recently that have been based on source material he did not write.

Both of Chen's features, the dramas Ilo Ilo (2013, and winner of Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival) and Wet Season (2019, winner of the Golden Horse Best Leading Actress award for Yeo Yann Yann), were self-penned and also mainly featured dialogue in Chinese and other regional languages.

Explaining why he has now opted to work in English and on projects penned by others, he says that his creative input into the stories, as well as his decision to work only on projects that move him, make films like Drift "as personal as any film I have made".

"In the past several years, I've worked on projects where I'm not the screenwriter, but I work closely with the writer to develop the screenplay. For Drift, it's been a three-year journey to get the script to its current stage," says the London-based film-maker.

Chen is also set to direct the drama Secret Daughter for Amazon Studios, a project based on a bestselling 2010 novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. It stars Indian actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas and British-American actress Sienna Miller in a story about an adoptee from India whose life creates links between two women.

The Breaking Ice, a Mandarin feature film directed and written by Chen, is in post-production. Filmed in northern China, it tracks a group of young adults and their relationships over a few days. Its Chinese cast includes Zhou Dongyu (the Oscar-nominated drama Better Days, 2019) and Liu Haoran (the action-comedy Only Fools Rush In, 2022).

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