Co-producer of Ilo Ilo, Camera d’Or Award, 2013 Cannes Film Festival and 2013 Golden Horse Film Awards
Executive Director, Singapore International Film Festival
BA(Hons) Arts Management, Class of 2005
MA Arts and Cultural Management*, Class of 2007
*As of Jan 2019: MA Arts and Cultural Leadership
Arts Management alumna Yuni Hadi walked the red carpet at the 2013 Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, Taiwan when Anthony Chen’s debut feature film Ilo Ilo, which she co-produced, took home an unprecedented four trophies including Best Film.
Ilo Ilo met with warm acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival where it received a 15-minute standing ovation. It made history by becoming the first Singaporean feature film to win an award at Cannes – the prestigious Camera d’Or for best debut feature film. The film has gone on to a streak of wins at film festivals round the world, in countries from the United Kingdom and Australia to Hungary, Kazakhstan, and India.
Yuni took some time out of her busy schedule to share with us her thoughts on Ilo Ilo’s success and her role as the film’s co-producer.
Yuni: I met Anthony Chen when we started to distribute his short films through Objectifs Films. He was clearly a very focused person and talented filmmaker. When the chance came to work with Anthony on his first film, I took it as an opportunity to learn something new.
Working on Ilo Ilo has been a very rewarding experience. Working with an international sales company with an Academy Award and Cannes track record challenged us to think through things in a different way – especially how to stand out in festivals. But on some other aspects such as the film’s title, we felt we had to trust our gut feel. The partnership certainly got us to understand the business of filmmaking at an international level much better.
As a co-producer my role was to support the creative vision of the filmmaker, to have the film reach its full potential. I think that understanding the psychology and the motivation of an artist is really important. In more mature industries, a producer often is the one developing the project from start. But in Singapore and many parts of South-east Asia, filmmakers act as writer-directors so the project begins from them. It’s a different working process altogether.
The success of Ilo Ilo helped set Singapore films in the international market as serious contenders and has made critics, buyers and festivals interested in what’s coming up next from Singapore.
I want Singaporeans to continue to watch more local films. One of the outcomes of Ilo Ilo is that many people who had not watched a local film before started going to the cinemas, some with their families and some with their domestic helpers.
Before Ilo Ilo, there were other successful Singapore films that have helped open doors for us. These include Glen Goei’s Forever Fever, the first (and only) Singapore film to be distributed by Miramax Films, and the selection of films by Eric Khoo, Ho Tzu Nyen and my fellow alumnus Boo Junfeng in the Cannes Film Festival. I certainly hope the awards that Ilo Ilo has won will open up new opportunities for other Singapore filmmakers. I don’t think anyone goes into a filmmaking project thinking that it will win all these awards. You just work on it the best way you know how.
Long before the phenomenal success of Ilo Ilo catapulted her to new heights, Yuni had made a name for herself in Singapore with her tireless work promoting independent Singapore films. She spent four years building the film programme at The Substation Centre for the Arts, created several milestone projects such as the annual Fly-by-Night Video Challenge and the Singapore Short Film Festival, and currently helms Objectifs Films, a Singapore-based international film distributor. She is next set to take on the role of Executive Director of the newly revived Singapore International Film Festival.