Royston Tan's new film 24 will premiere at Busan International Film Festival

24 is described as an examination of life and death through the experiences of a dead film sound recordist.
24 is described as an examination of life and death through the experiences of a dead film sound recordist.PHOTO: CHUAN PICTURES

SINGAPORE - Singaporean film-maker Royston Tan will premiere his new feature film 24 at the Busan International Film Festival, which is taking place from Oct 6 to 15.

His first movie since 2015's comedy-drama 3688 is an arthouse film that comes after a string of works aimed at a general audience, including the music-driven comedy-dramas 881 (2007) and 12 Lotus (2008).

In a press release, 24 is described as an examination of life and death through the experiences of a dead film sound recordist whose spirit is drawn to 24 places with sounds he must capture.

Speaking to The Straits Times on the telephone, Tan, 45, says filming took place between 2019 and March this year in Singapore and Thailand, with Covid-19 precautions taken.

"After making 3688, I knew I wanted to make a personal film," he says. He was entering mid-life, so notions of mortality occupied his mind, he adds. Inspiration struck when he saw sound recordist James Choong, a long-time collaborator, at work one day holding a microphone on a boom (extended pole).

"The image haunted me and I decided to start the story from here," says Tan. He hopes audiences will enjoy the film's sonic landscape and, through it, appreciate the work of sound recordists and designers.

Choong plays the ghost of himself. What he captures on the film is what the audience will hear, says Tan.

The film is funded by Tan's own Chuan Pictures production house and he hopes to give it a local premiere at the Singapore International Film Festival slated for Nov 25 to Dec 2, with a wider release next year.

At the Busan festival, 24 is among seven films in the running for the Kim Jiseok award, named after the festival's late and widely respected programme director. The prize is awarded to "the most attractive film that reflects the contemporary standing of Asian cinema", according to a press release from the festival.

Some places in which the ghostly James appears include a Taiwanese opera troupe performance taking place in Singapore, a lotus pond in Udon Thani, Thailand, as well as a now-defunct local nightclub that organised dance sessions mostly attended by seniors.

"It's a sound film that brings you to the past, present and future through the journey of a sound man," says Tan.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story misspelt the name of sound recordist James Choong, which was provided by the newsmaker. We also misspelt the Kim Jiseok award. We are sorry for the error.