Letter from Singapore

by Chen Chiou Beng

Singapore, as with other big cities of the world, is heavily influenced by Hollywood. Almost all films shown in Singapore are Hollywood A-grade production, with big casts and/or directors. For example, films starring Tom Cruise and films directed by John Woo and James Cameron are very well received.

But for the taste of foreign films, it is terrible. Other than the various film festivals in Singapore (most notably the Singapore International Film Festival that is going to open this April), foreign titles outside Hollywood are generally ignored. For example, my first review for WCR, Wolves Cry Under The Moon, only opened in the Singapore International Film Festival in 1998, while others, like Motel Cactus, opened in Singapore with a R(A) rating and was described as a skin flick. Only very rarely is a foreign film rated with a PG rating, like Shall We Dance? (Japan) and the upcoming Life Is Beautiful.

Foreign films, however, are opening up in Singapore. Dr Akagi (Akagi Sensei) is going to show in Singapore and The Idiots (Idioterne) by director Lars Von Trier has already been officially screened in this country.

Singapore films, on the other hand, have been well received. I do not know about the early history of Singapore filming, but Singapore's film success owes much to Eric Koo. His first feature was Mee Pok Man, a dark view of the underside of Singapore life, was a success. His second film, Twelve Storeys, even made it to the Cannes Film Festival.

Jack Neo, on the other hand, is a famous comedian also in big in Singapore. His Money No Enough is one of the highest grossing film last year. His second feature, Liang Po Po, a character based on a Singapore comedy series, is widely watched by general audiences.

Also on the heels is Glen Goei, whose first feature, Forever Fever, is bought by Miramax company for US release. Also with the buying of this film Miramax has also signed a contract signing for three more other features, also funded by Miramax. This film premiered in the US in the Sundance Film Festival.

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