NFTS 2010 graduate Anthony Chen has won the coveted Camera d'Or at Cannes - the most prestigious award for a first feature film director - with his feature Ilo Ilo.
Anthony is the first ever Singaporean to win this prize, which was presented in Cannes by actress Chinese star Xhang Ziyi and acclaimed French director Agnes Varda.
The film, shown in Directors Fortnight ( La Quinzaine), follows a family coping with the fallout of financial crisis and drew upon the director's own personal childhood experiences.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, an over-awed Anthony Chen said humbly: "It is a dream for a first film to get this much support and encouragement...What really heartens me is that a story about an ordinary family in Singapore can touch the hearts of audiences miles away. It is a great honour to receive this award from the hands of one of cinemas' greatest directors and one of its greatest actresses."
The crew included NFTS graduates Benoit Soler (Dop), Hoping Chen ( Editor), and Zhe Wu (Sound Designer/ Sound Editor/ Dubbing Mixer).
Anthony Chen added: "I'd like to thank the incredible team who worked on this film for three years."
Nik Powell, NFTS Director said: "Ilo Ilo is a stunning achievement, a film of great emotional power. Congratulations to Anthony and to the other key NFTS alumni."
Lynda Myles, NFTS Head of Directing Fiction, said: "I am thrilled to hear the news about the award of the Camera d'Or to Anthony Chen for Ilo Ilo. He joins a very distinguished list of past winners, including Jim Jarmusch and Steve McQueen."
The film was given a standing ovation from the 800-strong crowd when it was shown during Director’s Fortnight and organisers had to ask people to stop because they had to prepare for the next screening!
Anthony added: "When the film stopped, it was in the middle of the birthday scene with the characters singing Happy Birthday. Yet the audience continued to sing Happy Birthday and it showed how invested they were in the film. No one walked out and we had a standing ovation at the end. I was so moved that both the audience and actors teared up, because it showed me they understood the film.”
Praised by Screen Daily as a film that “…could enjoy worldwide theatrical attention when one considers that, although the movie is set in Singapore, the issues at play are universal," Ilo Ilo has attracted so much interest, it was even mentioned on Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook page. There was success also for Clio Barnard, a graduate of the NFTS’ advanced course, who won the Europa Cinemas Label as Best European film in the Director's Fortnight section for her film The Selfish Giant. Her film will now receive the support of the Europa Cinemas Network, with additional promotion and incentives for exhibitors to extend the film’s run on screen.
Clio has been hailed by Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian as a significant new voice in British cinema; Variety critic Guy Lodge says the “film should elevate Barnard to the bracket of streetwise femme compatriots Andrea Arnold and Lynne Ramsay,” and the Telegraph’s critic Robbie Collin gives the film 5 stars saying: “So hauntingly perfect is Barnard’s film, and so skin-pricklingly alive does it make you feel to watch it, that at first you can hardly believe the sum of what you have seen: the astonishingly strong performances from her two young, untutored leads; Barnard’s layered script; Mike Eley’s snow-crisp cinematography that makes the streets of Bradford shine.”
2010 NFTS graduate Paul Wright’s debut feature film For Those in Peril, also made waves following its screening in Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival.
The film tells the story of Aaron, who has returned to his remote fishing village following a tragic expedition from which he was the only survivor. Aaron, played by George MacKay, has to deal with survivor’s guilt, and the small religious and superstitious community turning against him. It is produced by Warp X with backing from Creative Scotland, the BFI, Film4 and Screen Yorkshire.
Robbie Collin in the Telegraph gives the film 4 out of 5 stars and says: “The film’s young cast are terrifyingly good: George MacKay ... is simply heartbreaking in a performance that leaves you feeling like your own soul has been peeled.”
Variety’s Charles Gant describes the film as, “a visually arresting poetic reverie that should strike a chord with adventurous audiences who don't mind mood over matter.”
Paul is also interviewed by Nick Clark in the Independent, by Screen International’s Editor Wendy Mitchell and by The Guardian’s Henry Barnes for their Film Talk strand.
Paul is an NFTS Directing Fiction graduate and was a 2007 Screen International Star of Tomorrow. His acclaimed shorts include Believe and the BAFTA winner Until The River Runs Red. He is in the early stages of writing his next project.
The NFTS’ 2013 graduate film The Magnificent Lion Boy (Directed by Ana Caro and Produced by James Cotton) was shown in the Cinéfondation section at Cannes – the only film from a UK film school. It received a roar of applause from the packed audience that included Jane Campion the Head of the Jury for Cinéfondation.
Speaking after the screening, Director Ana Caro said: "It was very exciting to present the film to both the public and the jury members at Cannes, including Jane Campion, who is inspiring to me."
Producer James Cotton added: "The response from the audience was fantastic. Already, we can see that this film is something special; making people laugh and cry. It's quite a trick to pull that off, and Ana is a genius at achieving it."
Lynne Ramsay’s BAFTA winning film Swimmer was in the Directors' Fortnight short film section and she is on the Cannes Film Festival Jury that will choose the winner of the coveted Palme d'Or. There was also a Special Screening of Director Stephen Frears’ Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, which was written by Shawn Slovo.
These films were all supported by a talented crew that included many graduates from the NFTS:
For Those in Peril- Producer Polly Stokes; DoP Benjamin Kracun; Editor Michael Aaglund; Additional Sound Effects Recordist Dario Swade Ilo Ilo - DoP Benoit
Soler Last Days on Mars - Editor Peter Lambert; Art Director Steve Lawrence;
The Magnificent Lion Boy (NFTS) - Writer Jonathan Carr; DoP Alfie Biddle; Production Designer Natasha Mackey; Editor Paulo Pandolpho; Production Manager Natalie Langowski; Sound Designer/Dubbing Mixer Ania Przygoda;VFX Supervisor/Online Editor/Grade Jason Evans; Composer Sarah Warne; CGI Pre-visualisation James Miller & Jack Whinnett
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight - Writer Shawn Slovo
The Selfish Giant - Editor Nick Fenton; Rerecording Mixer Martin Jensen; Development Editor Jamie Wolpert
Swimmer - DoP Natasha Braier; Production Designers Jane Morton & Kiera Tudway; Art Director Kristine Maj De Neergaard; Sound Designer Paul Davies; Production Assistant Emily Morgan.
If you’d like to join our award-winning alumni, there are still places left on these NFTS MA courses: Sound Design for Film and Television; Sound Recording for Film and Television; Production Design; Digital Effects; Directing Animation as well as a new Certificate in Animation launched with Aardman Animation’s studio in Bristol.
There are also places on Diploma courses such as Production Management and Script Development. For a full list of courses click here.
Pictured: Anthony Chen receiving the Camera d'Or for Ilo Ilo.