S'pore film gets standing ovation at Cannes

On the red carpet in Cannes are (from far left) director Anthony Chen with actors Yeo Yann Yann, Koh Jia Ler and Chen Tianwen.

SINGAPORE - Singaporean film-maker Anthony Chen's debut feature Ilo Ilo is flying high at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

The touching domestic drama has been getting buzz in the French Riviera, with glowing notices and a standing ovation lasting more than 15 minutes after its premiere last Sunday with an audience of about 800 people.

Things did not start off too auspiciously for the Directors' Fortnight screening though. Chen, 29, tells Life! that there were power shortages in the French city that night and the film stopped a few times.

He recalls that once, it was halfway through a scene with characters singing Happy Birthday: "When the film stopped midway, the audience continued to sing Happy Birthday and it showed how invested they were in the film.

"No one walked out. I was so moved that both the audience and actors teared up, because it showed me they understood the film."

Ilo Ilo explores the relationship between a Singapore family and their newly arrived maid, and is set against the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Iloilo is a province on Panay island in the Philippines.

The movie stars Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann, veteran television actor Chen Tianwen, award-winning Filipino actress Angeli Bayani and newcomer Koh Jia Ler, 12.

Chen's film is eligible for the Camera d'Or prize, which is awarded to the best first feature film presented in one of Cannes' selections - Official Selection, Directors' Fortnight and International Critics' Week.

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