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Ilo Ilo is first S’pore film to win at Cannes

SINGAPORE — Ilo Ilo has become the first Singaporean feature film to win at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, with director Anthony Chen taking home the coveted Camera d’Or prize for best feature film debut yesterday evening (this morning, Singapore time).

SINGAPORE — Ilo Ilo has become the first Singaporean feature film to win at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, with director Anthony Chen taking home the coveted Camera d’Or prize for best feature film debut yesterday evening (this morning, Singapore time).

“It is a complete surprise and I’m still trying to take it in,” Mr Chen told TODAY from Cannes, the festival’s closing ceremony.

“This is not just an honour for me but for Singapore, since it is the first time a feature from Singapore has been awarded at Cannes.”

Some 18 films from the Official Selection, Director’s Fortnight and International Critics’ Week sections were eligible for the Camera d’Or at this year’s 66th Cannes Film Festival.

Mr Chen’s film was screened in the Directors' Fortnight sidebar programme, which was put together by the French Film Directors Association and is considered one of the world’s best showcases of promising new film-making talents.

The premiere of Ilo Ilo was nearly marred by technical difficulties, including a power outage and the English and French subtitles disappearing and reappearing on the screen.

Despite the hiccups, the audiences not only stayed until the end, but they gave Mr Chen and his cast a 15-minute standing ovation.

“What really heartens me is that a story about an ordinary family in Singapore can touch the hearts of audiences miles away,” said Mr Chen.

He added: “The whole week has been filled with such wonderful experiences that it’s been surreal. It’s a dream for a first film to get this much support and encouragement!”

Ilo Ilo — which will be screened locally in August, with Golden Village having acquired the distribution rights — explores the relationship between a young boy and his family’s new Filipino maid during the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

The cast, which includes veteran Singaporean TV actor Chen Tianwen, Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann and award-winning Filipino actress Angeli Bayani, have received rave reviews in various international publications.

“This is a big step for Singapore film in general, one that will associate Singapore films with quality in the eyes of international audiences, media, investors and critics,” producer Yuni Hadi told TODAY.

“What we are excited about is showing our film back home later this year because, at the end of the day, Singapore films record the stories of Singaporeans.”

Ilo Ilo and Mr Chen also received a congratulatory note from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Facebook this morning: “Congratulations to Anthony Chen, the cast and crew. This is the first time a Singaporean has won the award. Well done indeed!"

Mr Chen became the first Singaporean film-maker to be awarded in Cannes in 2007, when his short film Ah Ma (Grandma) won a Special Mention in the Palme d’Or for Short Films competition.

MAIN PRIZE

In the main competition, the tender lesbian romance Blue is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele won the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or.

The jury, headed by Steven Spielberg, took the unusual move of awarding the award not just to Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche but also to the film’s two stars, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux.

The three-hour film caught headlines for its lengthy, graphic sex scenes, but bewitched festival goers with its heartbreaking coming of age story.

Life of Adele, which premiered at Cannes just days after France legalised gay marriage, was hailed as a landmark film for its intimate portrait of a same-sex relationship.

“The film is a great love story that made all of us feel privileged to be a fly on the wall, to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning,” said Mr Spielberg.

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