SINGAPORE: Film-maker Royston Tan is keeping Singapore’s cinematic flag flying high, with his Best Asian Short Film win at the 2016 Sapporo International Short Film Festival last Saturday night (Oct 14).
The Singaporean director won the award for Bunga Sayang, one of the short films in 7 Letters – an anthology by seven homegrown film-makers Eric Khoo, K Rajagopal, Jack Neo, Tan Pin Pin, Boo Junfeng, Kelvin Tong, and of course, Royston Tan himself – who came together to produce a cinematic love letter to Singapore on her 50th birthday last year.
Out of the 3,548 films submitted for the festival, 85 were shortlisted and Tan’s Bunga Sayang emerged as the winner in the Best Asian Short Film category – the first Singaporean film to win the award in the festival’s 11-year history.
“Winning this award really feels like coming full circle,” Tan told Channel NewsAsia after his win. “It has been 10 years and I am back again to where it started.”
Tan previously spent two months in Sapporo on an artist-in-residence programme, where he ended up writing 4:30 and Monkeylove, which were released in 2005 and 2006, respectively.
“When it was announced that Bunga Sayang won, the translation headphones actually dropped out of my ear! I was that excited!” he said. “I was told audiences feel that Bunga Sayang reveals the romantic side in me. But in fact, I’m not really a romantic person! But I will do my very best to be more romantic after winning this award.”
With strong showings at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year by K Rajagopal and Boo Junfeng, followed by Boo winning the coveted Rising Director Award for his critically acclaimed Apprentice at the recent Busan International Film Festival, and 7 Letters taking home the US$15,000 Kumamoto City Award at the Focus on Asia-Fukuoka International Film Festival, this has a been a banner year for Singapore films.
Tan’s accolade was presented by award-winning cinematographer Takeshi Hamada, known for his work on Best Foreign Picture Oscar winner Departures, who described Bunga Sayang as a film that brilliantly portrays the harmony of multi-ethnicity.
The festival judges echoed Hamada’s sentiment. "The power of Tan's work is his ability to conjure up slices of Singaporean spirit that reveal both the nostalgia past and the current cultural climate of this island nation,” they said.
“In a microcosm of seemingly everyday life, he displays a distillation of the complexities of multiracial existence. He points the magnifying glass on Singaporean identity across generations and race and translates it well on the big screen."
Tan said the judges told him they also loved the song Bunga Sayang by Dick Lee. “Maybe that’s what won the award!” he quipped.