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France, America, China, India – we have seen these countries portrayed on the big screen by big-time directors in their hugely-budgeted films. It is time audiences from those countries see how beautiful Singapore is as well, don’t you think?

That is American director Graham Streeter’s dream for his latest feature film Cages. And what a bold dream it is.

“I want audiences all over the world to experience Singapore’s rich culture. I want the show the world that it is a wonderful location for future filming projects,” Streeter tells Moviexclusive.com proudly at the gala premiere of his movie.

The young director was first inspired by a postcard picture of old men looking at bird cages in Tiong Bahru when he was in Singapore seven years ago. Fascinated by the unique image, he swore to himself that he’d make a film here on our sunny island.

“There was so much I didn’t know about the country, but that is the greatest challenge for me – to learn about another culture. It is almost like getting another degree because it has been so intellectually enriching.”

Streeter goes on to reveal how he wrote a universal story about a single mother coming to terms with her father who abandoned the family years ago. Add a blind boy to the story and you have an inspiring film of faith, hope and courage.

“It’s about bringing the different elements together which embrace each other against the beautiful backdrop of the country,” he says of his screenplay.

Oscar nominee Mako Iwamatsu takes on the role of the kind old man whose 20-year-old dark secret costs him his relationship with his daughter. While it was most unfortunate that the great actor passed away from esophageal cancer last July, actors who worked with him on the set remembers him fondly.

“It is a wish come true working with him,” says Zelda Rubinstein, who was present at the premiere, which also served as a tribute to Iwamatsu. Playing Iwamatsu’s companion in the film, the two acclaimed actors share a lot of screen time in the bird cage shop he owns.

“He is a very giving and unselfish actor who moved the film forward,” adds the gentle actress.

Also sharing screen time with Iwamatsu is 8-year-old Dickson Tan, who is talent-spotted by the filmmakers at the Singapore School for the Visually Impaired.

Extremely excited about the screening, the adorable young boy tells us how all the hard work and efforts have paid off.

“It was a little difficult staying up late for the shoots, but it’s not that tiring because I also stay up till 2am in the morning to chat on messenger and edit my website,” Tan rattles delightedly.

Things were not that easy too for actor Bobby Tonelli, whose first day of work required him to shoot a sexy lovemaking scene with local actress Tan Kheng Hua.

“It sure was intense and dynamic,” gushes the good-looking actor.

“But everything went fine thanks to Kheng, and considering a woman of her size, it is amazing how she kicked my ass,” he laughs while recollecting the explosive scene where the on-screen couple turned violent over an argument.

The lady in question has her own take on this emotionally-intense leading role.

“This is the right one for me,” affirms Tan in her elegant gold gown. Best known to many for her wacky role as Margaret Phua in local hit sitcom Phua Chu Kang, the versatile stage-television-film actress is sure that this role has all the right elements she is looking for.

“Everything is in place, from Graham as the director to the story he wrote. There’s nothing more I can ask for.

“I really feel like Helen Mirren giving her thank-you speech at the Oscars right now!” the sincere and thrilled actress exclaims.

So how would the honest actress like Cages to take off?

With a firm tone, she says: “The whole team has put in lots of effort for this project. So let’s all give credit where credit is due. People have to watch the film and judge for themselves now.”

Like the film, these are indeed the most earnest words which can truly inspire.

Cages opens in Singapore 22 March.

By John Li | Pictures by Lokman B S
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