Singaporean feature Pop Aye debuts to glowing reviews at prestigious Sundance Film Festival

Thaneth Warakulnukroh and Bong the elephant in a cinema still from Pop Aye.
Thaneth Warakulnukroh and Bong the elephant in a cinema still from Pop Aye. PHOTO: GIRAFFE PICTURES

SINGAPORE - Pop Aye, the first Singaporean feature to compete at Sundance Film Festival, was screened in Utah on Thursday (Jan 19).

Director Kirstan Tan said the reception at the premiere in Park City exceeded her expections.

"It was snowing really hard... but I felt a genuine warmth from the Sundance audience," said Tan.

Pop Aye, Tan's debut feature, follows a middle-aged architect and his elephant as they travel across Thailand in search of the farm they grew up on.


It was shot entirely on location in Thailand with Thai actors and crew.

The five screenings of the film at the indie film festival have sold out.

The film has also received glowing early reviews from US media outlets.

Hollywood industry paper Variety said: "Warm yet unsentimental, graced with the lightest touch of surrealism, this opening-night offering from Sundance's world cinema dramatic competition is a joy for patient viewers."

Industry publication Screen Daily said: "Thailand-set, Singapore-backed drama Pop Aye is a charming tall tale about a disillusioned big city dweller who reunites for a road trip with his family's elderly elephant. Soft and sweet, Kirsten Tan's bright and airy debut is also quietly eloquent, speaking of a loss and regret."

Hollywood Reporter's review said: "The hometown-bound peregrinations through Thailand of a city man and his elephant make for a tender and sharply etched journey in Pop Aye. Loneliness, alienation, the ache of nostalgia and the everyday absurdity of life infuse every encounter in the unconventional road trip. Like the journey it depicts, the first feature by New York-based, Singapore-raised writer-director Kirsten Tan is unhurried and unforgettable."