Singapore film-maker John Clang in the running for prestigious Rotterdam film festival award

John Clang's 101-minute film is described as a "tale of reincarnation" featuring the stories of a dead theatre actress, an ex-mistress and an unfaithful husband.
John Clang's 101-minute film is described as a "tale of reincarnation" featuring the stories of a dead theatre actress, an ex-mistress and an unfaithful husband.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The debut feature film of Singaporean photographer and film-maker John Clang is in the running for a prestigious award at one of the largest public film events in the world.

The film, titled Their Remaining Journey, is eligible for the Bright Future Award at The International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), an annual film festival held in various cinemas in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

This award is given to film-makers selected to present the world or international premiere of their first feature-length film in the festival's Bright Future section. It comes with a €10,000 (S$16,000) prize, to be spent on the development of the film-maker's next film project.

This year, there are 18 films eligible for the award, the festival revealed in a blog post on Friday.

The jury for the award consists of film festival Netia Off Camera's artistic director Ania Trzebiatowska, Rotterdam filmmaker and editor Nathalie Alonso Casale, and Grasshopper Films distributor Ryan Krivoshey.

Clang's 101-minute film, made on a budget of US$100,000 (S$133,000), is described as a "tale of reincarnation" featuring the stories of a dead theatre actress, an ex-mistress and an unfaithful husband.

Shot in Singapore, Taiwan and New York in 2014 and 2015, the film features an almost entirely Singaporean cast and crew, including theatre actress Doreen Toh, who has also acted in local productions such as last October's The Spirits Play, as well as Clang's parents and friends.

The film's cinematography is done by emerging artist Lavender Chang and its music is handled by composer and musician Clarence Chung. Its dialogue is in Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese.

Clang, 44, is based in New York. When contacted, he said: "I suppose I should feel happy, but I think relieved is a better word. My film is a bit challenging to watch. If it is not accepted at the IFFR - which champions progressive and experimental films - I think I would be a bit lost and worried.

He added: "I am not focused on winning this award. The film itself is a part of my art practice and, as an artist, that is enough for me."

On his decision to create a film, he said: "I had always wanted to make films since I was 23 years old. Before I moved to New York, I even closed down a profitable photography studio to join a production house in Singapore.

"I don't really consider myself a filmmaker. Rather, I consider myself as an artist and film is part of the medium and language I use in my art.

"I want to make films that express my vision as an artist, not for entertainment but more for our contemplation. I will continue to make challenging films even though the audience may be slim. There is always hope that the next generation will find something inspiring in this humble effort of mine."

The film's world premiere is slated to take place in the Netherlands on Jan 30, and Clang hopes to eventually screen it in Singapore.

The festival is a recognised platform in Europe for launching new films and talent, and actively supports independent film-making from around the globe.

It will take place from Jan 24 to Feb 4 this year, and the Bright Future Award will be presented during an awards ceremony on Feb 2.