What it takes to win Camera d'Or at Cannes

Anthony Chen saw 8,000 children before he picked child actor Koh Jia Ler (right). Yeo Yann Yann (left) plays Koh's mother in the film.

SINGAPORE - Ilo Ilo director Anthony Chen wanted everything in his award-winning film as real as possible - from the real caning of the child actor to sending interns knocking on 500 doors to search for the perfect flat for the shoot

Yip Wai Yee Koh Jia Ler, the first-time child actor in the award-winning local film Ilo Ilo, was caned for real several times in two takes while shooting a scene.

It is a literal example of how director Anthony Chen cracks the whip to achieve his vision.

Says Jia Ler, 12, whose mother was fine with the caning since she used to cane him when he was younger: "Anthony talked to me about it and I was fine with it. It was painful, but it's okay, because I know he wants everything as real as possible. The caning is just a small thing to me.

"I was much more scared of the chicken," he says, referring to another scene where he had to carry a live chicken in his arms.

"I am really very, very scared of chickens, but Anthony told me to overcome my fear and just try my best to do the scene. Whenever I could not do a scene, he would come over and teach me."

From real caning to real chickens, Chen knows what he wants in his films and will not budge until he achieves it. Such an uncompromising artistic stance has reaped rich dividends for him.

Ilo Ilo won him the prestigious Camera d'Or for best debut feature film at Cannes Film Festival last Sunday.

It is the highest honour a local film-maker has ever received. In 2007, Chen had won a Special Mention Award at Cannes for his short film, Ah Ma (Grandma, 2006).

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