Ilo Ilo

Ilo Ilo

Singapore, 2013, 99 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Asian, Coming of Age, Family Issues, Historical/Period
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: Chinese, English English Sub-Titles

In receiving Cannes’s prestigious Camera d’Or prize this past May, Ilo Ilo became the first Singaporean feature to be honored by the French festival. Set amid of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, Anthony Chen’s highly assured feature-length debut depicts the day-to-day drama, and unexpected hardships, of a middle-class family and their live-in Filipina maid, Teresa (Angeli Bayani). At first bullied by oldest son Jiale (charismatic 11-year-old newcomer Koh Jia Ler, who was discovered in a group of more than 8,000 children), Teresa ultimately earns the affection of the very badly behaved boy, especially after he experiences the humiliation of Singapore’s most infamous form of corporal punishment: a schoolhouse caning. It is their unusual bond that provides Ilo Ilo with its unexpected emotional warmth.

Ilo Ilo is equally attuned to the small and large crises of its bourgeois protagonists, private traumas that Chen quietly captures without an overabundance of sentimentality: with his working wife (Yeo Yann Yann) well into her third trimester of pregnancy and constantly harassed by angry school administrators, Jiale’s hapless father (Chen Tian Wen) not only loses his job—a fact that he will withhold from his wife—but also much of the family’s savings.

Teresa, however, is the most empathetic character in Chen’s film, named for the Philippine province from which his own longtime family maid (Auntie Terry) came. In this very personal film based on the director’s childhood, Teresa provides the viewer’s point of entry into this crumbling middle-class milieu.

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DIRECTOR: Anthony Chen
Producer: Hwee Sim Ang, Anthony Chen, Wahyuni A. Hadi
Editor: Hoping Chen, Joanne Cheong
Screenwriter: Anthony Chen
Cinematographer: Benoit Soler
Principal Cast: Koh Jia Ler, Angeli Bayani, Tian Wen Chen, Yann Yann Yeo

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