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Boo Junfeng's Apprentice continues winning streak

SINGAPORE — Local filmmaker Boo Junfeng's Apprentice has been a hot festival favourite, sweeping awards from Taipei to St Louis.

Apprentice, the second film from Singapore's Boo Junfeng, has won the Critics' Choice and Regard d'Or Grand Prix awards at the Fribourg International Film Festival. Photo: Yew Jiajun

Apprentice, the second film from Singapore's Boo Junfeng, has won the Critics' Choice and Regard d'Or Grand Prix awards at the Fribourg International Film Festival. Photo: Yew Jiajun

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SINGAPORE — Local filmmaker Boo Junfeng's Apprentice has been a hot festival favourite, sweeping awards from Taipei to St Louis.

Now, the 33-year-old's psychological prison drama, which explores the death penalty from an executioner's point of view, has bagged yet another two awards. On Sunday (April 9), to took the Critics' Choice Award as well as the top prize, the Grand Prix, at the Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF).

"I suppose a story from an executioner's point of view is something people were naturally curious about. It's great to see it resonating with audiences around the world," Boo told TODAY.

Boo had attended the festival to present the film, also hosting Q&A sessions at three of the film's screenings there. He did not stay for the awards ceremony for the festival - which began on March 31 and ended on Sunday - as he was flying back to Singapore on Saturday morning.

In a recorded acceptance speech played at the ceremony, Boo said that it was a surprise to receive the festival's top prize, which comes with a cash prize of over 30,000 Swiss francs (S$41,000). 

"This was really quite unexpected. The past year has been a very eventful year, traveling with the film and taking it to audiences around the world," Boo said in his speech. "The audience at Fribourg was one of the best we've had. The feedback from the audience and responses I've gotten just at the festival has been quite amazing. It's good to know that the film stays with people who have seen it. So, thank you very much to the jury for honouring the film in such a way."

The annual film festival in Fribourg, Switzerland, focuses on films from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Previous films that took the Grand Prix include Yi Yi, by late Taiwanese master filmmaker Edward Yang; South Korean drama Poetry, by Lee Chang-dong; and My Magic by Singapore filmmaker, Eric Khoo.

The FIFF is Apprentice's 60th film festival since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section in May 2016. It has been shown in festivals from London, to Chicago and Hong Kong.

Boo received the Rising Director Award for the film at Busan International Film Festival in October (2016). Apprentice was also selected by the Singapore Film Commission (SFC) to be Singapore’s official selection for the 2017 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

Apprentice has won the Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema (NETPAC) award at Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival; Best Film, Asian New Wave at the QCinema International Film Festival; Best Narrative Film, Interfaith Competition at the St Louis International Film Festival, as well as Special Mention, Acting Ensemble at Hawaii International Film Festival. 

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