The debut feature of Vietnamese director Phạm Thiên Ân, titled ‘Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell’, clinched the Best Asian Feature Film award at the recently concluded 34th Singapore International Film Festival.
By Lê Hương
SINGAPORE – The debut feature of Vietnamese director Phạm Thiên Ân, titled ‘Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell’, clinched the Best Asian Feature Film award at the recently concluded 34th Singapore International Film Festival.
This 2023 Vietnamese-language drama film, both written and directed by Phạm Thiên Ân in his first foray into feature film directing, is a joint venture involving Việt Nam, Singapore, France, and Spain.
The film premiered globally at the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 76th Cannes Film Festival on May 24, 2023, and secured the Caméra d’Or, a prestigious accolade bestowed upon the finest first feature film.
‘Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell’ narrates the story of Thiện’s sister-in-law Teresa, who perishes in a motorcycle mishap in Sài Gòn, while her five-year-old son Đạo miraculously survives the accident.
|Producer Jeremy Chua receives the prize on Sunday night in Singapore. Photo courtesy of the organisers
Thiện, along with his nephew Đạo and the remains of his sister-in-law, returns to the rural village where he was raised. In this village setting, Thiện experiences a series of loosely connected events that depict rural life. He participates in a funeral and various Catholic rituals. During his stay, Thiện encounters an elderly man, a veteran of the American War in Việt Nam, who shares his harrowing survival tales.
Thiện spends time hunting with his host, developing a bond with Đạo. He also has an awkward reunion with Thảo, a childhood friend. In the past, Thiện had sought to cultivate a romantic relationship with Thảo, who has now taken vows and become a nun.
He arranges for Đạo to be enrolled in a school run by nuns, where Thảo works, and which primarily educates highlander students. Instead of staying in the village for an upcoming event, Thiện decides to leave, embarking on a quest to find his missing brother. He hopes to uncover his brother’s whereabouts, inform him of his wife’s death, and discuss the care for his son. Thiện discovers that his brother had once contemplated joining the priesthood, even attending a seminary, before choosing marriage. Carrying a wedding photo of the couple found on Teresa’s body, Thiện searches in a village where he suspects a connection might exist. Despite his efforts and conversations with the locals, his search remains unproductive.
The film was produced by Vân Thị Trần for JK Film (Việt Nam) and Jeremy Chua for Potocol (Singapore), in coproduction with Deuxième Ligne Films (France), Zorba Production (Việt Nam) and Fasten Films (Spain).
Producer Jeremy Chua told Việt Nam News that he talked to Ân at Cannes, and they found that they were both drawn to similar kinds of cinema.
“It’s always finding that philosophical question about his life and how he observed that cinema to him is more than just about narrative, but it’s also about expressing his own way of communicating with the rest of the world,” he said. “And he’s an introvert. He is someone who doesn’t express himself through talking a lot, but for him, the cinema spoke so much language, so much that I resonated with. That’s normally how I choose to work with the directors. And so we already agreed on that evening after watching his film to work together on his first movie.”
Chua said he admired Vietnamese cinema because it’s often very poetic and very lyrical.
“I think the first Vietnamese film I watched quite recently is Phan Đăng Di’s ‘Bi, Don’t Be Afraid’,” he said. ”And then I started watching ‘Adrift’. And what I found is that its own language, that is very in tune with nature, very in tune with maybe a pre-modern way of life and beauty and simplicity. And it has its own language that merges with that simplicity. So I also feel that Ân has this quality, but in a very different style.”
As the largest and longest-running film event in Singapore, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is an event of the Singapore Media Festival (SMF), hosted by Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA).
|A scene in the film. Photo Courtesy of JK Film
Founded in 1987 by Geoffrey Malone and co-founded by L. Leland Whitney, the Festival focuses on showcasing international films and providing a global platform for the best of Singapore cinema.
Over the decades, it has become an important date in the Singapore arts calendar. With its focus on groundbreaking Asian cinema, this prestigious event is known for its dynamic programming and commitment to the development of a vibrant local film culture.
The festivities bring this city a vibrant film experience and a deeper appreciation of its cinematic culture. SGIFF aims to open new perspectives and make new connections. Audiences will enjoy many activities, including film screenings, master classes, fringe events, industry discussions, and awards ceremonies.
The Festival means to inspire the widest public interest in the arts, and give thousands of film lovers around the region direct access to a wide range of World and Asian cinema.
Full list of awards at the 34th Singaporean Film Festival:
Cinema Icon Award: Fan Bingbing
Outstanding Contribution to Southeast Asian Cinema Award: White Light Post
Asian Feature Film Competition:
Best Asian Feature Film: Inside The Yellow Cacoon Shell
Best Director: Yoon Eun-Kyung – The Tennants – Korea Selatan
Best Performance: Yang Kuei Mei – A Journey In Spring
Best Screenplay: A Journey In Spring – Taiwan
FIPRESCI AWARD: The Tennant’s – Yoon Eun-Kyung – Korea Selatan
Special Mention: Dreaming and Dying – Nelson Yeoa (Singapore-Indonesia)
Southeast Asian Short Film Competition:
Best Southeast Asian Short Film: The River That Never Ends – JT Trinidad – Filipina
Best Singapore Short Film: Giselle Lin – I Look Into the Mirror And Repeat To Myself
Best Director: Sam Manasca – Cross My Heart And Hope To Die – Filipina
Best Performance: Fredy Sreudeman Wowor – Of Others Tomorrow’s Never Known
Best Screenplay: Once Upon A Time There Was A Mom – Lin Htet Aung
Southeast Asian Film Lab
Most Promising Project: Terbakar – Shelby Kho – Indonesia
Special Mention: Caloy Limjap Soliongco – Day Tripper – Filipina
Seth Cheong -Blue Buildings – Singapore
Fellowship Prize: Making A Sea – Myanmar
Young Critic Award: Shaksham Mehrotra
Audience Choice Award: Goodbye Julia – Mohammed Kordofani