2 December, 2016 I Patrick Frater (Asia Bureau Chief)
After a busy year, Singapore film making is now additionally celebrating the selection of “Pop Aye” as the opening movie in the 2017 Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition section.
The road trip drama is the first feature by Tan and the first time that a Singapore film has found such a prominent position in Sundance.
It has also secured international sales representation through Cercamon. The Dubai-based sales agency was established last year by Sebastien Chesneau, former sales head at Rezo Films International.
The film’s selection comes after a banner year that included the selection of Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice and K Rajagopal’s “A Yellow Bird” for slots in different sections of the Cannes festival.
Production is by Lai Wenjie at E&W Films and executive production by Giraffe Pictures. Giraffe is the production label of director Anthony Chen, who won the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2013 with “Ilo Ilo.”
Tan is no stranger to festivals, having previously won multiple awards with her short films “Dahdi” and “Fonzi.” Similarly, “Pop Aye” was developed at the Berlinale Talents program, the TorinoFilmLab, and the Cannes Atelier.
Set in Thailand, the story is simple enough, involving a man who is reunited with an elephant friend. Together they take a redemptive journey to the farm where they both grew up.
“I realize that an elephant can be loaded with symbolic meaning, but for me it is more literal,” Tan told Variety. “Maybe it is like searching for the meaning of Rosebud in ‘Citizen Kane’.”
“The man is having an existential crisis and has problems with his wife. I could say what I think the elephant might mean, but I’d rather that people watch the film for themselves.
It is currently unclear when that will be. “We hope to release the film in Singapore in the second half (of 2017.) We may release it ourselves, but are open to working with a distributor,” said Tan. “We are still sending it out to festivals in the first half of the year.”
“I am over-wrought with imagination. So ‘Pop Aye’ has no connection with any of my short films. Everything is new. It is not autobiographical, though I can see that it might reflect my philosophy, my world view, and attitudes.”
The Sundance Film Festival takes place January 19-29, 2017 with screenings in Park City, Salt
Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort, Utah.