Filmmaker Eric Khoo lauds Singapore’s twin presence at Cannes

Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo will be making a short film inspired by Chua Mia Tee’s ‘Portable Cinema’ for the National Gallery Singapore’s new ‘Art Through Our Eyes’ film omnibus. — Handout via TODAY
Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo will be making a short film inspired by Chua Mia Tee’s ‘Portable Cinema’ for the National Gallery Singapore’s new ‘Art Through Our Eyes’ film omnibus. — Handout via TODAY

SINGAPORE, May 19 — Cannes Film Festival veteran Eric Khoo weighed in on the inclusion of Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice and K. Rajagopal’s A Yellow Bird at this year’s edition of the festival.

“It’s great you have two Singapore products at Cannes and the buzz is strong,” he said, but added that it would be hard to determine what their chances are of picking up awards. Both films have already been screened, and the former is competing for prizes under the Un Certain Regard section, while the latter is up for the Camera d’Or for best feature film debut. The awards will be held on May 22.

“It’s really (about) who the jury (members) are, and there are so many different variables,” said the Singaporean director, who has previously presented his films, such as Tatsumi, My Magic, Be With Me and 12 Storeys, at the prestigious event, and is an executive producer for Boo’s Apprentice.

The director was speaking at a media event today for the latest film project he is involved in: The National Gallery Singapore’s (NGS) Art Through Our Eyes, where award-winning South-east Asian directors will be creating five-minute films inspired by artworks from the museum’s collection.

Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza will be making a short film inspired by Fernando Amorsolo’s ‘Marketplace During the Occupation’ for the National Gallery Singapore’s new ‘Art Through Our Eyes’ film omnibus. — Handout via TODAY
Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza will be making a short film inspired by Fernando Amorsolo’s ‘Marketplace During the Occupation’ for the National Gallery Singapore’s new ‘Art Through Our Eyes’ film omnibus. — Handout via TODAY

Done with the support of the Singapore Film Commission, the films, which are currently in production and post-production, will then be compiled into an omnibus that will premiere at the end of the year. The museum is currently in discussion with the Singapore International Film Festival, which takes place in November.

Khoo, who initiated the project, has taken on recent Cultural Medallion recipient Chua Mia Tee’s 1977 painting Portable Cinema, which depicts a roving old trishaw from which one can watch short films, which was popular during the mid-20th century. Other participating directors include Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Indonesia’s Joko Anwar, who will take on the paintings of Indonesia’s Raden Saleh: His two paintings of Mount Merapi erupting, and Wounded Lion, respectively.

Filipino director Brillante Mendoza will be inspired by Marketplace During the Occupation, by the Philippines’ Fernando Amorsolo, while Malaysia’s Ho Yuhang will take on Singapore/Malaysian artist Latiff Mohidin’s Aku.

The new project follows the museum’s My Masterpiece promotional video series featuring prominent Singaporean personalities talking about their favourite artwork at NGS.

Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul will be making a short film inspired by Raden Saleh’s ‘Merapi, Eruption By Night’, as well as another day version for the National Gallery Singapore’s new ‘Art Through Our Eyes’ film omnibus. — Handout via TODAY
Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul will be making a short film inspired by Raden Saleh’s ‘Merapi, Eruption By Night’, as well as another day version for the National Gallery Singapore’s new ‘Art Through Our Eyes’ film omnibus. — Handout via TODAY

With the new film series, the museum hopes to highlight the “creative impulses” behind the works, said Suenne Megan Tan, director for education and programmes. The directors were given “free hand” to “bring in their own experiences”.

Malaysian filmmaker Ho Yuhang will be making a short film inspired by Latiff Mohidin’s ‘Aku’ for the National Gallery Singapore’s new ‘Art Through Our Eyes’ film omnibus. — Handout via TODAY
Malaysian filmmaker Ho Yuhang will be making a short film inspired by Latiff Mohidin’s ‘Aku’ for the National Gallery Singapore’s new ‘Art Through Our Eyes’ film omnibus. — Handout via TODAY

Khoo said he had the idea of getting his fellow film-makers to drop by the museum and see “what turns them on”, adding that he is a fan of his fellow participating directors. Incidentally, along with Khoo, Weerasethakul and Mendoza are Cannes veterans themselves, with the latter currently in the festival’s main competition.

Khoo said he is also a long-time fan of the artist behind his chosen painting, which is the only artwork among the six that is currently not on display at the museum.

He describes his short film as a “tribute” to Chua, who will appear in the short film.

“He’s a real inspiration, and I wanted to also explore the man and express his love for the medium. He and his wife would paint together every day. I want people to realise what a great artist we have,” he said.

Khoo hopes that Art Through Our Eyes will become a regular series that would extend to directors beyond the region. “I’d love to have a Korean film-maker take a South-east Asian painting and do something about it.”

Are you reading this, Park Chan-wook? — TODAY

Related Articles