By Victoria Barker
A Funeral was the unlikely catalyst for home-grown director Glen Goei's latest movie to take shape.
Shortly after returning to Singapore from London in 1999 (where he was then based), he attended the wake of actress Pam Oei's mother.
"Having been in England for 18 years, I was fascinated to see all the things that go on at an Asian wake," Goei, 46, told my paper in a recent interview, adding that it was the first wake he had attended in Singapore in years.
"It was melodramatic at times, like a soap opera. It was almost like a microcosmos," he said.
The result of that fascination is The Blue Mansion, a quirky murder-mystery about a wealthy man who dies suddenly and returns as a ghost to uncover the circumstances surrounding his death.
The black comedy Goei's second feature film after 1998's cult hit Forever Fever.
Filmed over six weeks last year, mostly in Penang's Cheong Fatt Tze mansion, the movie stars home-grown faces such as Adrian Pang, Patrick Teoh and Tan Kheng Hua.
Not to mention that it's got loads of family drama.
It opens in cinemas on Thursday.
And Goei, who is also the associate artistic director of theatre group Wild Rice, has high praise for the ensemble cast.
"These people are the creme de la creme of the Singapore and Malaysian theatre scene," he said animatedly.
That might explain why the man gave his actors free reign of their characters during filming.
He said: "By giving them freedom to create their own characters, they started to experiment and were not afraid of trying new things. I like (my actors) to feel ownership of their characters." That strategy clearly worked.
The movie - which was co-written by former Straits Times journalist Kenneth Kwek and cost over US$2 million (S$2.8 million) to produce - made its world premiere earlier this month at the prestigious Pusan International Film Festival.
As for upcoming projects, Goei told my paper he is in the early stages of writing a period Chinese epic musical with Kwek.
For now, though, he hopes The Blue Mansion will be well-received by Singaporeans.
He said thoughtfully: "At the end of the day, the movie is about a dysfunctional Asian family, which I think everyone can relate to in some way or other."
The Blue Mansion opens in cinemas on Thursday.
For more my paper stories click here.