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Director Anthony Chen admits pressure after Ilo Ilo

Local director Anthony Chen admits pressure to deliver follow-up to Ilo Ilo, but says: I won't be a sell-out

Anthony Chen

His future movies will never top the success of his award-winning 2013 debut Ilo Ilo.

Anthony Chen stated that matter-of-factly when he spoke to The New Paper yesterday.

The London-basedSingaporean film-maker was in town to promote his latest project Distance, an omnibus film that features contributions by three young directors, Xin Yukun, Tan Shijie and Sivaroj Kongsakul, from China, Singapore and Thailand respectively.

The three stories all star Taiwanese actor Chen Bolin and deal with different aspects of the central theme of distance.

Anthony Chen (L) with Taiwanese actor Chen Bolin (R) on the set of Distance

Chen, 32, was executive producer of the film and had "free rein" to do whatever he wanted, as long as it met censorship requirements in China.

Distance, which is rated PG13 and opens here on June 2, is predominantly funded by Chinese investors.

"When (they) approached me to do a film, I told them that in no way would it be as successful as Ilo Ilo," said Chen.

"They knew they wouldn't get back their investment, yet they still pumped in money... That showed how much they believed in it and that took the pressure off."

Ilo Ilo became a milestone for Singapore cinema in 2013 when it bagged a string of international awards, including the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and four Golden Horse Awards for Best Film, Best New Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Yeo Yann Yann).

Ilo Ilo also grossed over $1.2 million at the local box office.

"I don't have any expectations for Distance as it is not a commercial film," said Chen. "I believe that good films will always find their audience."

He said that when he planned Ilo Ilo, people told him the film would not make it.

Chen Bolin in a scene with and Thai actress Chayanit Chansangavej.


"Who wants to watch a movie about a maid and a boy? They also told me that the story was not controversial or sexy, even for film festivals."

When asked if he ever feared he would be viewed as a one-hit wonder, Chen admitted there was pressure to deliver initially and that the media in Hong Kong and Taiwan kept asking him what his Ilo Ilo follow-up would be.

"Thankfully, there wasn't much pressure here!"


After completing Distance's publicity campaign here, he will return to Thailand to continue working on fellow Singaporean Kirsten Tan's feature film debut Popeye, which is produced by Chen's film company Giraffe Pictures.

Chen is also working on "some book adaptations back home in London" and is in the midst of finalising the story for his second directorial effort. He hopes to start production at the end of the year.

Said Chen: "Film-making is not about winning awards and making money. I just want to make films with good stories and stay true to myself and not be a sell-out."

Distance premiered at the 52nd Golden Horse Film Festival in November last year and was released in China and Taiwan this month.

Reception was lukewarm in both countries, something Chen said he had expected as it is an anthology.

He added that moviegoers in China and Taiwan had different reactions.

"China loved the first story, which explored the estranged relationship between a father and son.

"They really hated the third story. They just couldn't accept the plot of a younger man in a relationship with an older woman," said Chen.

It was the complete opposite in Taiwan, as "the audiences did not see anything wrong with that story".

Working with Sablon will benefit Sundram, says Leonard Thomas

New Lions coach will benefit from working closely with Belgian guru Sablon

Michel Sablon.
V Sundramoorthy.


At the end of more than 120 minutes of action, I wonder what went through V Sundramoorthy's mind as he walked off the field at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday.

It was his final game as coach of Tampines Rovers and he'd just pulled off a tremendous result after the S.League giants made the AFC Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Mohun Bagan, beating the Indian outfit 2-1 after extra time despite having a man sent off.

Now for the biggest test of all, he may well have told himself.

Less than three days later, Sundram was officially unveiled as the new Singapore coach, the first local to assume the position since Vincent Subramaniam in 1998-2000.

He would have been delighted to hear Football Association of Singapore (FAS) vice-president Lim Kia Tong say at yesterday's press conference that the new coach will receive the full backing of the national body.

That means tune-up matches, training camps abroad and an extended preparation period for the national team before November's Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, for which Sundram himself has set the target of a semi-final spot.

Lim revealed that Sundram will work closely with technical director Michel Sablon as he plots the rise of the Lions.

Strong-willed, fiercely independent and always suspicious of any sort of interference, I asked Sundram yesterday if it would be a problem, even if Sablon is one of the leading minds on football and coaching development in the world.

One is a 50-year-old son of the famous local football hotbed of Sembawang, the other is 68 and from Belgium, and the former Singapore star's response suggested that the unlikely marriage could work wonders for the game here.

Sundram described Sablon as a good person, first and foremost, and said he had no problem working with him, but that ultimately, decisions on the national team will be made by the national coach.

As it should be.

When it became obvious that Bernd Stange was leaving the national post, I had hoped for a top foreign coach to take over, with a local like Sundram as an understudy for two years, to become completely at home leading troops into battle on the international stage.

Sundram has been given his chance by the FAS and, if the partnership with Sablon blossoms, then the Lions and Singapore football have every chance to make hay.

Sundram's work ethic as a coach is widely acknowledged, he is meticulous in preparing his teams tactically.


He will need to quickly learn to joust mentally with his opposite number on occasion in the build-up to matches and be able to ease the pressure on his own players.

It may not be crucial in the less sophisticated climes of the S.League, but on the international stage, it is important in the chase for results.

Sundram preaches discipline, he doesn't indulge, and with so many of our players continuing to grapple with the demands of being professional, this demand is the right way forward for anyone who has the ambition to play for Singapore.

Amid the flashing cameras and questions yesterday, I recalled how a Sundram in tracksuit worked on the sidelines in India earlier this week, clearly the man in charge as he spoke to his players before extra- time kicked off.

Down to 10 men after a sending-off, I wondered at the time just what he told the likes of Izwan Mahbud, Afiq Yunos and Hafiz Abu Sujad.

It worked a treat.

Yesterday, as the top officials tried to explain their strange description of Sundram as the new caretaker coach of the national team, the man himself didn't care.

Every coach dreams of answering the nation's call, he said, clearly relishing the opportunity.

He couldn't wait to get out of his smart suit and tie and begin his first training session with the Singapore football team starting today.

And "live" on cable TV, local fans can watch the Lions in battle very soon, when they play a quadrangular in Myanmar from June 3 to 6 involving Vietnam, Hong Kong and the hosts.

He will no doubt be busy passing on instructions to his players, hoping it works a treat, this time on the international stage, for the feel-good factor to continue to affect the national team.

The Lions' Sundram era has begun, supported by an able Belgian.

And, an entire nation must be on board.


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Busquets pens new five-year Barca deal

Barcelona's defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets has extended his contract by five years until 2021, the Catalan giants announced yesterday.

The agreement includes an incentive option for a two-year extension, based on the number of appearances he makes.

The contract has a 200 million-euro ($307m) buyout clause and will be signed in the coming days, Barca said in a statement.

Busquets, who made his debut for Barcelona in 2008, has played 384 official matches with the first team, scoring 12 goals.

The 27-year-old has been part of a Barca squad that have won six La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues, four Copas del Rey, three Uefa Super Cups, four Spanish Super Cups and three Fifa Club World Cups.

Busquets has also been a key part of the Spanish national team in recent years, winning the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

- AFP.

Tags: Busquets, Barca and la liga