×

10 Directors to Watch: Singaporean Auteur Anthony Chen Won Camera d’Or

Born in Singapore and based in London, Chen reps his home country in the Oscar foreign language race

For Anthony Chen, who won Cannes’ Camera d’Or prize for his debut “Ilo Ilo,” the support didn’t end on the Croisette. The Singapore-born director was touched when Camera d’Or jury president Agnes Varda and several of her fellow voters showed up to attend the Parisian premiere of his unassuming yet deeply affecting film, which has been selected to represent his home country in the Oscar-foreign language race.

A graduate of the Ngee Ann Polytechnic School of Film and Media Studies in Singapore and the National Film and Television School in the U.K., Chen drew inspiration from his childhood for “Ilo Ilo,” about a Filipino maid working for a Chinese family rocked by the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The London-based helmer travels to Singapore to develop projects in Asia, but hopes that his next pic will be in English, produced out of the U.K. or U.S.

“I might still write more personal projects in the future,” says Chen, “but I am more keen now to direct material not written by myself. I don’t want to restrict my canvas and pigeonhole myself from other opportunities. Ideally, I would like to be involved early and develop projects together with a screenwriter and producer.”

One of the most striking aspects of Chen’s debut is the nuanced nature of the drama. All the central characters are complex, well-rounded and treated with sympathy even when behaving badly. “My writing process is very organic. I don’t start with a very clear structure,” explains Chen. But once the script crystallizes over a meticulous series of drafts, the director insists that every glance and gesture adheres to the plan.

“Ironically, as much as filmmaking is about control — a director wants to control every element in the mise-en-scene, the lighting, the performance — the medium is also very much about losing control,” he says. “I used to think one goes on a journey to find that illusive film, but now I think it is actually the film that is coming to find you.”

Stats:
› Age: 29
› Home base: London
› Agents:
Bec Smith, UTA (U.S.); Camille McCurry, United Agents (U.K.)

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Juntos

    Juntos Films Production House Launches in Chile with Ambitious Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    Francisco Hervé of Panchito Films, Moisés Sepúlveda from Madriguera Films and Daniela Raviola, three of Chile’s most exciting international-minded independent producers, have together launched a new indie production house, Juntos Films. Hervé has written, directed (“The Power of Speech,” “The Lost City”) and produced (María Paz González ‘s “Daughter”) several feature films, documentaries and TV [...]

  • Noele trailer Anna Kendrick

    Disney Unveils 'Noelle' Trailer Starring Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader

    Among the many announcements at the D23 Expo, Disney debuted the first look at holiday feature “Noelle,” which is set to premiere exclusively on Disney Plus this fall. “It isn’t Christmas without Santa’s Sister,” Walt Disney Studios said of the film on Twitter. Starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader, the Christmas flick tells the story [...]

  • A Hidden Life Movie Austria

    Film News Roundup: Austin Festival Selects Terrence Malick's 'A Hidden Life'

    In today’s film news roundup, the Austin Film Festival selects a Terrence Malick title, “A Day Without a Mexican” gets a sequel and DCR Finance signs a first-look deal. FESTIVAL SCREENING The Austin Film Festival will screen Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” which won the Francois Chalais and Ecumenical Jury awards at the Cannes Film [...]

  • Blake Lively

    Blake Lively's 'Rhythm Section' Moved Back to 2020

    Paramount Pictures has moved the release date of Blake Lively’s “The Rhythm Section” back two months from Nov. 22 to Jan. 31, 2020, the weekend of Super Bowl LIV. The spy tale, adapted from Mark Burnell’s novels surrounding character Stephanie Patrick, is produced by James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson through their [...]

  • The Mandalorian

    'The Mandalorian': Watch the First Trailer for 'Star Wars' Series

    The gunslinging lone warrior — the Mandalorian, as they call him — calls the far reaches of the “Star Wars” galaxy home. Disney dropped the first trailer for the spinoff series during its biennial D23 convention on Friday, finally giving fans a closer look at the franchise’s newest character. “The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau, who [...]

  • Lady and the Tramp trailer

    'Lady and the Tramp': Disney's Live-Action Remake Gets First Trailer (Watch)

    Ready your dog-friendly bowl of spaghetti, Disney has debuted the first trailer for its live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp,” starring Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux. The teaser was released during Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim at the Disney + presentation. In addition to Thompson and Theroux, who play the Lady and Tramp, respectively, [...]

  • Mickey Mouse waves to members of

    Spider-Man, Spicer and Splashy First-Looks: Everything We're Looking For at D23

    As if Disney hasn’t owned enough weekends this year at the box office, the biennial D23 Expo will light up Anaheim, Calif. over the next three days to celebrate the content monolith. From a new Netflix-competing streaming platform to scores of movie and series reveals — along with a few hot controversies to confront — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content