'Be angry' - Martin Scorsese tells homegrown film-maker Boo Junfeng

Cinema legend Martin Scorsese encourages film-makers to make indie movies even if it is hard getting an audience, as 'the cinema is not a theme park'

Director Boo Junfeng met Martin Scorsese in Taipei, where the American film-maker was promoting his movie Silence.
Director Boo Junfeng met Martin Scorsese in Taipei, where the American film-maker was promoting his movie Silence.PHOTO: COURTESY OF BOO JUNFENG

Channel your anger - that was what acclaimed American film-maker Martin Scorsese told Singaporean director Boo Junfeng when they met recently.

Asked for advice given the general difficulty of finding an audience for non-mainstream films, Scorsese, 74, told Boo: "You get so mad, you've got to make the film and you've got to show it, you demand the film be shown.

"Because if you don't take advantage of your passion, the cinema will just become a theme park."

His answer resonated with Boo, 33, who tells The Straits Times: "It was very much in line with my beliefs of persisting in my craft and allowing my passion to drive me. The cinema isn't just a theme park - I think that comment he made hit the spot with me."

One of the most iconic characters in American cinema is the intense Travis Bickle played by actor Robert De Niro in Scorsese's seminal 1976 movie Taxi Driver.

Boo is among those it has left a deep impression on.

So he leapt at the chance to meet Scorsese in Taipei, where the filmmaker was to promote his new work, Silence. The film, showing in cinemas here, is about two 17th-century Jesuit priests who journey to Japan to spread the Catholic faith.

Boo, whose feature films are coming-of-age drama Sandcastle (2010) and psychological prison drama Apprentice (2016), says: "I didn't realise this at first, but I think Travis Bickle's loneliness might have partly inspired the characters in some of my films."

His whirlwind 18-hour trip was sponsored by Taipei-headquartered streaming service Catchplay (www.catchplay.com/sg).

A spokesman says the company organised the trip because the service is branded as "for movie lovers, by movie lovers".

"We'd like to be more than just an OTT (over-the-top streaming) content provider. We would like to be part of the film community as well, which is why we invited a director each from Singapore and Indonesia to meet Martin (for him) to share insights with young, up-and-coming directors".

While Boo was nervous about meeting one of the living legends of cinema, he managed to compose himself and handed a DVD of his movie to Scorsese.

He says: "He saw the title of Apprentice and said he's already heard of it from (Cannes film festival head) Thierry Fremaux. I was super happy to hear that."

•Silence is in cinemas.

Watch Boo Junfeng speak with Martin Scorsese at http://str.sg/4eq2

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline ''Make non-mainstream films''. Print Edition | Subscribe