Anthony Chen became a local hero after winning the prestigious Camera d'Or Award for Best Debut Feature at this year's Cannes Film Festival in May, and last night 1,600 people celebrated his achievement at the movie's gala screening at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands.
The guest-of-honour was President Tony Tan Keng Yam.
Chen admitted that he felt pressured that Singaporeans may not think the film would live up to the hype. "I didn't know if Singaporeans would appreciate the movie as the French people did at Cannes," said Chen, 29, tears running down his face.
But judging from the applause, cheers and standing ovation when Chen and his cast - local veteran Chen Tianwen, Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann, Filipino actress Angeli Bayani and newcomer Koh Jia Ler - took the stage after the movie ended, the audience was certainly touched by the movie.
Ilo Ilo, which is based on Chen's childhood memories, examines the strained relationship of a boy and his family.
Set amid the 1997 financial crisis, it's a heartfelt story where the boy connects with a stranger, the Filipino maid who sometimes take over the role of a mother. "It's really a warm, emotional and intimate movie," said Mr Peter Schoppert, who was among the audience.
The Singapore-based American, who said some scenes left him in tears, added that the movie was "better than expected". Miss Lau Sin Wen was excited to see the movie. The anthropologist said the movie brought "such an honour" to Singapore.
"It really showed the Singaporean story," she added. Chen said he would never forget the night.
"Sunday night's response is way better than the reception at Cannes as the applause isn't from 'ang mohs' but from our own local people," he said.
"The win isn't just mine. This is one for the industry and one for the country." The movie opens here on Thursday.
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