'I hate wearing a tuxedo'
S'porean directors Boo Junfeng and K. Rajagopal recall their recent Cannes Film Festival experience
Local directors Boo Junfeng and K. Rajagopal might be at the top of their game behind the camera, but they were like fish out of water on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival in France last month.
"I don't really like the experience of walking on the red carpet because I hate wearing a tuxedo," Rajagopal, 50, admitted to M in an interview on Monday.
His first feature film, A Yellow Bird, was competing in the International Critics' Week and was up for the Golden Camera award at the prestigious film festival.
Also representing Singapore at Cannes was Boo, 32, whose film Apprentice was competing in the Un Certain Regard section. He had been there in 2010 when his debut feature film Sandcastle was screened at the International Critics' Week.
Boo said: "What's more frightening than walking the red carpet are the moments in the car before you have to get out. You look outside and you see all these people lining the streets."
He added: "It's not such a pleasant experience to be herded along. You have rows and rows of photographers and they ask you to turn this way and that way, and somehow, you have to be turning in unison because there are four of us (including the cast)."
IN CANNES: (From far left) Malaysian actor Su Wan Hanafi, Singaporean actress Mastura Ahmad, director Boo Junfeng and actor Firdaus Rahman. PHOTO: AFP
Apprentice opens here on June 30, while no release date has been set yet for A Yellow Bird.
With plans to bring their acclaimed offerings to more film festivals, both look back at the best moments of their recent Cannes experience.
How did it feel to be competing at Cannes?
Rajagopal: Two years ago, I went to Cannes for L'atalier Cinefondation... so I felt the energy of it. That was when the seed was planted and I thought, 'What if my film was shown in Cannes?' Now, to have my film be a part of it, it's unbelievable.Boo: I suppose I was a little less wide-eyed, but it's no less overwhelming. Cannes' audience is known for being very honest and brutal, because it's usually full of critics and people in the industry... that's part of why I felt very nervous being there.
What was your most memorable moment, one that encapsulated your experience?
Rajagopal: It was when I went up on stage, and that realisation that my film was premiering at that very moment in Cannes in a cinema. Because it's my first feature film... I was pretty emotional.
IN CANNES: K. Rajagopal with Indian actress Seema Biswas. PHOTO: AFP
How did the audience react to your films?
Rajagopal: I couldn't hear, think or feel what anyone else was saying to me. I was just stunned.
I remember Junfeng giving me a big hug and I didn't want to let go because I was so thankful...
There were audience members who came up to me on the street.
I was having dinner and one person gave me a kiss. He's from Mexico and he said he loved the film.
Boo: It's very overwhelming when people stood up and clapped.
At that moment, I didn't know what to do.
What went through your minds when your films didn't win?
Rajagopal: I didn't expect to go to Cannes... To be in competition with a group of very fine films is a prize on its own. I'm very proud that I was eligible.Boo: I don't think awards or festivals are necessarily benchmarks to meet for films to be worthy of being watched or supported.
Are you hoping that the Cannes recognition will help boost local awareness and box office when the films open in Singapore?
Boo: Of course... it is often most rewarding when Singaporeans respond to the films we make, more than anywhere else in the world, very simply because these are films made in Singapore, (about) Singapore.
Who were you most keen to spot at Cannes?
Rajagopal: For me, it was the film-makers more than the actors... like (Iranian director) Asghar Farhadi.
Boo: I was most star-struck when I met Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda. At one of the dinners, my producer went up to him and asked if I could take a picture with him. He's one of my film-making heroes.