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25 November 2010

The first thing which screenwriter director Han Yew Kwang did when he received the letter from Media Development Authority (MDA)’s Board of Film Censors (BFC) was to take a photograph with it.

You see, the 35 year old filmmaker was actually elated that his latest work When Hainan Meets Teochew received a NC16 (Mature Theme and Some Sexual References) rating from the BFC.

“Finally, there is some breakthrough after having two ‘safe’ films,” laughs Han during a phone interview with moviexclusive.com. His previous feature films Unarmed Combat (2006) and 18 grams of Love (2008) were rated PG by the BFC.

Han’s latest film puts a Hainanese manly woman and a Teochew womanly man in the spotlight, having them getting involved in a love hate relationship after a brassiere goes missing.

Han says earnestly: “I want to tell an unconventional romantic story where the leads are not your usual pretty faces. This is life, where things are real. It’s also a tale of self acceptance.”

Production began in September last year, but things weren’t as smooth sailing as planned because of the massive scheduling involved. As this was a collaborative project between friends, Han and his producer Lau Chee Nien wanted to accommodate the cast and crew’s schedules. Shooting eventually ended in March this year.

There were times when Han and Lau wanted to give up, but the motivation to make a film which they could truly call their own pushed them forward. It was also regarded as a good platform to hone their filmmaking skills. The director producer duo had set up 18g Pictures last year to create original content with a distinctive sense of humour.

However, as When Hainan Meets Teochew is a passion project between like minded comrades, the directing process turned out to be a breeze for Han.

“It was totally stress-free, and everyone was at ease with each other,” recalls Han fondly.

Directing the two inexperienced leads also did not pose a challenge to him. Lee Chau Min and Tan Hong Chye have worked with Han as a production manager and stylist respectively for many years, and he knew exactly what to do not to give them pressure on set.

He explains: “I’ve known Chau Min for 12 years, and Hong Chye for six years, so the rapport is already there. I would like to thank them for willing to go the extra mile to make this film happen.”

With this third feature film, how does the humble homegrown director rate himself?

“I’m waiting for you guys to tell me,” he chuckled good naturedly. Audiences can expect two upcoming works from Han – a telemovie titled Love in a Cab in December, and a theatrical feature film Perfect Rivals due in cinemas mid January.

Han also reveals that he feels that he is at a crossroad juncture where he has to decide which direction to take as a filmmaker.

“One part of me would like to explore commercial movies, but there’s also something in me which wants to make films I feel that audiences will like.

“With When Hainan Meets Teochew, it is also an experiment to see how audiences would react to my style of comedy,” he continues.

Han studied to be an architect ended up as a TV scriptwriter in 1998. His dream project is a romantic comedy like Richard Curtis’ Love Actually (2003), where separate stories involving a wide variety of individuals, many of whom are shown to be interlinked as their tales progress.

He states: “I’d like to try different kinds of comedy as I grow as a filmmaker.”

Han first garnered attention in 2001 when his short film The Call Home won Best Short Film at the Singapore International Film Festival. With 12 years of experience behind him, what advice does he have for young budding filmmakers?

“Do what you want when you are young. That’s the best time of your life. If you go on deliberating on how to make the perfect film, it will probably never happen.

“Each project you embark on is a unique learning experience,” says the amiable filmmaker.

When Hainan Meets Teochew opens 3 December at The Arts House and Sinema. Tickets are available at http://www.bytes.sg/ and http://tix.sinema.sg/



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