Film-maker could have been a chef

Filmmaker Anthony Chen.

At the age of 29, home-grown director Anthony Chen already has a glowing track record of awards and recognitions under his belt.

But the director - who won the Camera d'Or, or best first feature film, for his movie, Ilo Ilo, at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday - is your typical Singaporean guy.

He prefers to stay at home, watch DVDs, surf the Internet, and enjoy his personal time. In fact, he has said in previous interviews that he's "like an old man".

And, if he didn't make it as a film-maker, he would have been a chef and "spend the entire day in the kitchen", Chen told My Paper.

But his childhood passion for the arts, film and theatre spurred him to pursue his interest.

Chen's triumph at the festival is the first time that a Singaporean feature has won at Cannes.

At the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, the graduate from Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film & Media Studies bagged a Special Mention award for his short film, Ah Ma. Chen also won awards in South Korea, Belgium and France in 2004 for his first short film, G-23.

Ilo Ilo, Chen's first full-length film, is about a Singapore family and its newly-arrived Filipino maid in the midst of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The movie was inspired by his personal memories of being brought up by a maid.

Chen, who is married with no kids, told My Paper that he was heartened that a story about an ordinary family here could touch the hearts of audiences miles away.

"There is nothing more I can ask for with this very humble first film," said the film-maker.

His achievement even got a special mention by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who congratulated the director and the cast on his Facebook page.

"This is the first time a Singaporean has won the award. Well done indeed!" Mr Lee wrote.

Netizens have also expressed their support and encouragement.

"This is an inspiration to our young in Singapore, who aspire to contribute and develop in the film and production industry," wrote netizen Angelina Foo on Facebook.


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