Expanding the reach of good local movies

Expanding the reach of good local movies

I was not terribly excited when I first heard that a Singapore film Ilo Ilo had received a 15-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Even when it then won the prestigious Camera d'Or award at Cannes, I was nonchalant about it.

After all, it sounded like Anthony Chen, the home-grown director of the movie, had just scored a coup for an arty-farty movie, which had little significance for a mainstream movie viewer like me.

Many critics lambast local director Jack Neo's movies for being low-class but they bring in the crowds and, frankly, I am a fan of many of his hits.

With telling titles such as Money No Enough and I Not Stupid, it is easy to guess what the show is about simply by reading its title.

You can call me crass but I think I am like most ordinary Singaporeans.

With a name like Ilo Ilo and a French award whose name most of us cannot pronounce, it was really no surprise to me that Chen's film took in only about $700,000 at the box office compared with $10.2 million for Hollywood blockbuster Iron Man 3 and the $6.3 million that Neo's Ah Boys To Men Part 2 earned at the cinemas.

The latter is in second place on the list of top-grossing box office hits here, losing out only to the Marvel hero film. Ah Boys To Men Part 2 is proof that a home-grown movie can make money; it just needs the correct formula and the right marketing, even if some might call it low-class.

But on Monday morning, when I saw that Ilo Ilo had won the Best Feature Film, Best New Director and two other awards at the Golden Horse Awards - the Asian equivalent of the Oscars - I finally sat up and took notice. And when I read that Ilo Ilo had edged out Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster, his version of Ip Man with Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi as one of the leads, I was up on my feet and ready to part with my money.

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