As small as the Singapore reel scene is, it’s the real deal. The ’50s and early ’60s were considered a golden era for Singapore cinema. Then, the ’90s and 2000s saw the rise (and first revival) of local directors like Eric Khoo, Kelvin Tong, Glen Goei and, yes, even Jack Neo.
Today, new names (and titles) are populating the second cinematic wave, which started around five years ago. Audiences would be familiar with Anthony Chen, whose debut feature Ilo Ilo (2013) made history as the first Singapore film to win the prestigious Camera d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. More recently Pop Aye (2017), the Thailand-based debut feature from Kirsten Tan received the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenwriting at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and Boo Junfeng’s second feature, Apprentice (2016), premiered at Cannes last May, and is still picking up key awards from major festivals.
Directors aren’t the only local talents gaining accolades. In February, Los Angeles-based veteran sound editor Ai-ling Lee picked up two Oscars nominations for her work on La La Land (Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing), making her the first Singapore (and Asian) woman to be nominated for sound editing.
“What’s great about the Singapore film community is that filmmakers like Eric Khoo and Royston Tan are producing for filmmakers like Boo Junfeng and Kirsten Tan. That kind of mentorship and shared experiences can only make Singapore films better,” says Yuni Hadi, executive director of the Singapore International Film Festival. And it would appear that these second wave leaders are paying it forward – Anthony Chen mentored Martin Hong (one of the four filmmakers profiled here). These up-and-comers may be just a couple years out of film school and not household names (yet), but their smaller-scale works are already winning awards – just remember you read about them here first.