[ScreenSG] A Glittery Beginning

Never before have so many Asian stars converged on our little island state at the same time, and thanks to the inaugural ScreenSingapore, we got to experience what star-gazing meant at festivals like Cannes, Pusan and even Bangkok- albeit on a much smaller scale. 

The opening night of the festival saw many celebrities from Asia walk the red carpet for the film The Devil Inside Me, a horror thriller from Mainland China starring acclaimed Hong Kong actor Tony Leung and Chinese actress Anya. The latter was one of them present (below right), together with director Zhang Qi (below left), at Vivocity for the glitzy night. 


Zhang was noticeably delighted at the gathering of stars for his film, and he did not hesitate from whipping up his own camera and taking pictures of both the crowd along the red carpet as well as that inside the cinema. Only his second full length feature film, Zhang revealed that one of the reasons that both his films ended up being horror thrillers was that investors tended to choose safer genres for younger directors as it was considered 'less risky'.  

The contrast was apparent when veteran director Gordon Chan stepped up to unveil a teaser trailer of his upcoming supernatural action movie Mural, a follow-up of sorts to his earlier Liao Zhai tales adaptation Painted Skin that costs US$13mil to make. Leads Deng Chao and Sun Li were absent, but Gordon's bevy of supporting actresses including Yan Ni, Collin Chou, Liu Yan, Zheng Shuang, Xie Nan and Bao Bei-Er as well as producer Abe Kwong walked the red carpet with him. 

Gordon Chan (L-R) Xie Nan, Liu Tan, Yan Ni and Gordon Chan talk to fans prior to the screening of the trailer for The Mural at the ScreenSingapore 2011 opening night gala on June 5, 2011 in Singapore.

Gordon said that this was probably one of his most difficult shoots as his cast had committed to doing the film even before they had seen the script and he was especially careful to make sure he did not let them down. Producer Abe Kwong shared the same sentiments, adding that the amount of time and work that went into the CG graphics for this movie made it one of his most challenging movies. 

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the fantasy flick however would have to wait till August- the 30 sec trailer unveiled featured a series of oil painting sketches with a voiceover narrating the brief plot outline, and ended with a money-shot of a warrior against a CGI-ed metal-looking monster. Still the generous applause that greeted the trailer showed the anticipation for what is touted to be one of the biggest hits for Chinese cinema this summer. 

Given the emphasis on Asian cinema, there was perhaps no better person to be ambassador for the event than probably the most famous Chinese actress around the world right now, Zhang Ziyi. Ziyi, who just arrived in Singapore hours before, received the most attention as she made her way to the stage where she shared that she was extremely honoured to be a part of this festival. She also hoped that it would eventually be a platform of opportunities for the growing Asian film industry. 

That was also the reason why top Hollywood producer Jon Landau, who is behind two of the highest-grossing films in the world Titanic and Avatar, had made the trip halfway across the world. Referring to the Avatar's box office, he said that about one third of its business was in Asia, which underscored the importance of the territory to the film industry even in Hollywood. Jon added that he was here in Singapore to be part of ScreenSingapore as he felt that our country had the ability to be the gateway to Asia for the global film community. 


Also at the earlier press conference to announce the opening of ScreenSingapore was Indian director Shekhar Kapur, behind the critically acclaimed Elizabeth and the upcoming passion project Panni. Shekhar noted that the growth of Asian economies in the past few years have led to an increased confidence in these nations and an expansion of culture. With that, he said, the static storytelling of the past could be revived with ideas from Indian, Chinese and even Thai cinema. 

His dream was for Singapore to be the place where the East and the West could meet. "A Chinese film director could come here and make movies and be very comfortable with it. So could an Indian director," he said, further emphasising how Singapore was well-poised to be a melting pot for different people in Asia. Of course, the fact that China-based media group Enlight's Vice-President of Distribution, Mr Xu Lin, was also present at the conference further attested to ScreenSingapore's potential.

As home-grown film producer Daniel Yun, former head honcho at Mediacorp Raintree Pictures and CEO of Homerun Pictures, said, "For years Singaporeans have been going overseas for conferences. For the first time, the whole world is here. I feel like an insider looking out for the first time."

By Gabriel Chong