October 4, 2022
SINGAPORE – The comedy-drama Ajoomma has been selected as Singapore’s submission to the 2023 Academy Awards in the Best International Feature Film category.
Directed by Singaporean film-maker He Shuming, the film stars veteran actress Hong Huifang. It opens in cinemas here on Oct 27.
He’s feature film debut received four nominations at the 59th Golden Horse Awards, which take place in Taiwan on Nov 19. He has earned nods in the Best New Director and Best Original Screenplay categories (shared with co-screenwriter Kris Ong). Hong gained a nod in the Best Leading Actress category, a first for a Singaporean, while South Korean actor Jung Dong-hwan was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
The film tells the story of Auntie, a widow obsessed with K-dramas. Played by Hong, Auntie travels to Seoul as a tourist and becomes caught in an adventure involving a security guard played by Jung and a young tour guide played by South Korean actor Kang Hyung-suk.
The Singapore-South Korean co-production has been made under film-maker Anthony Chen’s Giraffe Pictures label and is supported by a New Director grant from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
Chen is the film-maker behind the drama Ilo Ilo (2013), Singapore’s entry to the 2014 Oscar race and winner of the Camera d’Or award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. It received six nominations at the Golden Horse Awards and won four, including for Best Film and Best New Director for Chen.
The selection for the 95th Academy Awards was carried out by Singapore Film Commission, a part of the IMDA. The shortlisted nominations in the Best International Feature Film category will be announced in December 2022, with the Oscars ceremony taking place on March 12, 2023.
In a press statement, Mr Justin Ang, assistant chief executive of media, innovation, communications and marketing, IMDA, said that the Authority has helped develop a support system for film-makers and Singapore media companies, with the aim of nurturing a pool of local storytellers capable of producing quality international content
“We are truly proud of our dedicated and passionate home-grown talent,” said Mr Ang.
“The selection of our first-ever Singapore-South Korea co-production, Ajoomma, as Singapore’s entry for Oscars 2023 is testament that collectively, we have raised the bar on storytelling and production values,” he added.
In the statement, Chen said that production house Giraffe Pictures is “honoured to fly the flag again”, after having produced previous Oscar submissions Ilo Ilo, Chen’s second feature the drama Wet Season (2019) and film-maker Kirsten Tan’s drama Pop Aye (2017).
No Singapore film has made it to the shortlist in this category, which was previously known as Best Foreign Language Film.
“We are just at the start of the film’s journey and look forward to bringing laughs and tears to audiences far and beyond our shores. This is definitely the Singapore film of the year to watch,” said Chen.
Film-maker He told The Straits Times that he is “very grateful” to IMDA for the selection.
“They’ve supported me through my days as a film student and as an independent film-maker, so to be able to represent Singapore with my debut feature film feels tremendous,” he said.
He said the team is now on its way to the Busan International Film Festival, which starts on Wednesday. The film will have its world premiere there.
“It begins our journey with an audience. I hope the film will resonate with Singaporeans when it comes out Oct 27,” he said.