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Ilo Ilo

When an affluent working couple in late-1990s Singapore employ a live-in maid, financial crisis and home truths are just around the corner.


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  • Director-Screenwriter Anthony Chen
  • Producers Ang Hwee Sim, Anthony Chen, Wahyuni A Hadi
  • With Yeo Yann Yann, Chen Tianwen, Angeli Bayani, Koh Jia Ler
  • Singapore 2013
  • in Chinese, English and Tagalog with English subtitles
  • 99 mins
  • UK distribution Soda Pictures

Deservedly awarded the Camera d’Or winner for best debut feature at Cannes, National Film and Television School graduate Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo is a delicate but devastating study of a modern affluent family and its vulnerabilities. Set in Singapore before and during the financial downturn of 1997, working couple, Hwee Leng and Teck, decide they need a live-in maid to do the chores and to take care of their errant young son, Jiale. When gentle Teresa (Terry) arrives from the Philippines, having had to leave her own son in order to earn money for his keep, Jiale immediately starts to cruelly play up. Terry’s arrival exposes the failings in the family that have led to Jiale’s bad behaviour and we quickly come to understand the domineering attitude of Hwee Leng is terrifying Teck into keeping secrets. Played with much humour and pathos, Ilo Ilo’s strength is that it so subtlety builds its emotional punch, you don’t see it coming.

Helen de Witt

Director biography

Born in 1984 in Singapore, Anthony Chen enrolled in Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Film and Media Studies at the early age of 17 to pursue his passion for filmmaking. His graduation film, G-23, screened at a number of festivals worldwide and won awards in Europe and Asia. His second short film, Ah Ma (Grandma), was nominated for the Palme d’Or for Short Film at the 60th Cannes Film Festival and was awarded a Special Mention, the first time a Singaporean film took an award at Cannes. Haze (2008), his next short, screened in competition at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival. Anthony is an alumnus of the Berlinale Talent Campus and Golden Horse Film Academy. In 2009, he was accorded the Young Artist Award by the National Arts Council of Singapore. In 2010, he completed his Masters in Film Directing at the National Film and Television School, UK, with a scholarship from the Media Development Authority of Singapore. Anthony now works between London and Singapore. Ilo Ilo marks his feature film debut after eight short films.

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