Home-grown film-maker Kirsten Tan, who won a prize last week for her debut feature Pop Aye at the prestigious Sundance festival in the United States, has picked up another major award –the VPRO Big Screen Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
On Friday (Feb 3) in the Dutch city, she received a cash prize of 15,000 euros for Pop Aye. Another 15,000 euros will go to the distributor of the film in the Netherlands.
Tan’s win is the first for a Singaporean film at Rotterdam, which industry professionals consider one of the most important film festivals in Europe.
The Big Screen Award is given to the film that the members of the jury want most to be seen by Dutch arthouse audiences. Previous winners of the same award include Another Year (2014) by Russian film-maker Oksana Bychkova, and Second Coming (2014) by British director Debbie Tucker Green.
Tan, 35, tells The Straits Times in a WhatsApp message: "It's totally insane! I'm actually still reeling from the Sundance prize, so this is truly really completely unexpected.
"I'm also particularly happy about this award because the winning film will screen in Dutch cinemas. It means a lot to me that Pop Aye seems to be able to find traction both on the festival circuit as well as in a theatrical release, as these are worlds that don't always necessarily go together."
Pop Aye, which follows a disenchanted Thai architect and his elephant on their journey across Thailand in search of the farm where they grew up together, will also be released in cinemas here, in the first half of the year. It has not premiered in Singapore yet.
Tan says she hopes that Singaporean audiences will do more than just like the film when it screens here.
"I hope that the Singaporean audience feels for the themes Pop Aye, whether or not it is set in Singapore, because that's the universal magic of storytelling," she says.
On Jan 29, her film won the Special Jury award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition for its screenplay at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
It was the first time a Singaporean had won an award at Sundance.
The executive producer of the film is director of Ilo Ilo (2013) Anthony Chen, who is producing the film under his Giraffe Pictures company, which aims to support and nurture emerging Asian film talents.
On Pop Aye's recent accolades, he says: "One is never sure of how things will pan out, but it's heartening that our efforts seem to be paying off. My team and I at Giraffe Pictures have always believed in honest, hard work, and supporting talented directors and sincere storytellers.
"This is also another affirmation of the growth and maturing of Singapore cinema."