Home-grown director Anthony Chen talks about llo llo success

Homegrown director Anthony Chen receiving the Camera d'Or on stage at the 66th Cannes' Film Festival. He won the prize under the category of best debut feature for his film llo llo.

SINGAPORE - His Camera d'Or win for best debut feature at the Cannes Film Festival last Sunday was historic. Yes, Anthony Chen is our latest local hero.

Still in Cannes and buzzing with excitement - though suffering some sleep deprivation - the 29-year-old shared with FiRST insights into the process of making Ilo Ilo, from casting to its success on the world stage.

Inspired by his childhood memories of growing up with a domestic helper, Ilo Ilo is a heartwarming tale about a family of three opening their doors and - eventually - hearts to a maid who proves to be a resourceful assistant to the family.

Slated for an Aug 29 release, the film stars Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann, 35; veteran television actor Chen Tianwen, 49; Filipino actress Angeli Bayani, 35; and newcomer Koh Jia Ler, 12.

1. Finding Bayani (who plays the maid) was dodgy

"We made a short trip to the Philippines to meet actresses, some of whom had worked with notable Filipino directors such as Brillante Mendoza and Lav Diaz.

"As we had little money, we were auditioning out of my hotel room, which must have looked quite dodgy - all these women going in and out of the room the entire day!"

2. Finding Jia Ler (who plays the child) was not easy

"It was a gruelling 10-month process. We went to over 20 schools and saw over 8,000 children, of which 2,000 were auditioned and we eventually chose him after over 100 hours of workshops."

3. Chen's a tough boss

"To be honest, I push my actors real hard. In fact I broke my own record this time with 18 takes for just one of the scenes.

"I wanted a certain authenticity and naturalism in their performances. I was tearing away any hint of trying to act and did not want to compromise.

"I didn't make it easy for them at all."

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