Film: Republic of Food, comedy about Singaporeans' love of food, to be released to mark National Day

A still from the film Republic of Food starring Yeo Yann Yann and Adrian Pang.
A still from the film Republic of Food starring Yeo Yann Yann and Adrian Pang.PHOTO: BOKU FILMS

SINGAPORE - Singapore film-maker Kelvin Tong will release a comedy about Singaporeans and local food to mark National Day.

The movie, Republic Of Food, stars Adrian Pang and Yeo Yann Yann as a couple learning to live in a dystopia where everyone's favourite dishes are banned because of a food-borne virus.

Produced by Tong's Boku Films and supported by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), the film will be screened at selected Cathay cinemas from Aug 16.

The film, which will be mostly in English with a dash of other local languages, focuses on the love of food as a trait that binds everyone, regardless of how deep their roots are here.

Tong, 45, had worked as a mentor to film-makers on MCI's Project Lapis Sagu short film competition. The project, launched in 2016, aimed at creating works that celebrate cohesion between locals and recent arrivals.

That experience, coupled with his desire to make a food-themed film, inspired the screenplay for Republic Of Food, he told The Straits Times at a press conference on Tuesday.

"Xenophobia is not isolated to blue-collar people - lots of managers and white-collar professionals have it too," he says.

In the film, when everyone has to eat a flavourless synthetic product called PHood, people of all backgrounds risk punishment to gather in secret to enjoy real food, such as garlic-fried bean sprouts.

The cast includes America-born Bobby Tonelli and the China-born Jeffrey Xu, as well as Singapore actors Patricia Mok, Shane Mardjuki, Suresh Subash, Oon Shu An, Alexandra Tan and Prakasam Silvarajoo. Food writer K.F. Seetoh also appears as the leader of the underground food club.

As a Singaporean, Tong says he has come to embrace the "rojak", or the hybrid nature of society here and how that spirit is reflected in its food and language.

The film is his attempt to reflect what he calls the "rojakness" of Singapore.

"People say that we should all make films in Mandarin because we want to export them, but I believe increasingly that what's more important are ideas, what the film is about," he says, citing the example of the hit indie movie Trainspotting (1996), in which characters spoke with a heavy Edinburgh accent.

The 100-minute film will premiere National Day weekend, Aug 10 and 11, at Chijmes. Tickets for the event have all been taken up.

The Cathay screenings from Aug 16 will be made available at standard ticket prices.

For Malaysia-born, Singapore-based actress Yeo, 41, the event that sticks in her mind about the film is cohesion of a different kind. She talked about about a love scene with her co-star Pang set in a corridor.

Not only did she and her co-star have to do everything standing up, there was the tricky matter of disrobing.

"I had to rehearse pulling his pants off just enough to show it happening but not reveal anything. It's a good thing we are both professionals," she says.

Just as important when acting in "making out" scenes, says Yeo, is smelling good.

"When we working late into the night, you have to remember that you might not smell so good after a long day. So I have mouthwash with me - all the time."