These visionary auteurs have trained the spotlight on Asian filmmaking, talent, and creativity on the global stage of the Cannes Film Festival
These visionary auteurs from Asia’s Most Influential list are training the spotlight on Asian filmmaking, talent and creativity. At the Cannes Film Festival, they have presented stories rooted in reality, whether grim or hopeful—and have brought home several of its most prestigious awards. Beyond Cannes, they continue to expand their portfolio and explore the new world of streaming, while also supporting Asian films and pursuing dream projects.
Anthony Chen, Singapore
At 38, director and producer Anthony Chen has had a decorated film career. His debut feature film, Ilo Ilo, premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and won the Caméra d'Or, which is awarded to the best first film from the year’s selection. Chen followed up the triumph with distinguished movies under Giraffe Pictures, the boutique film company he co-founded as an international label for emerging Asian filmmakers. Chen produced the Singapore-based outfit’s Distance (2015) which opened the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, along with Pop Aye (2017); and directed Wet Season (2019), which won several awards at international film festivals. Further promoting Asian stories, Giraffe’s upcoming projects embrace movies across the region: Ajooma from South Korea, Some Nights I Feel Like Walking from the Philippines, This City Is A Battlefield from Indonesia and Arnold Is A Model Student from Thailand.
While on lockdown, the filmmaker remotely shot The Break Away from the basement of his London home. The short was part of the seven-segment movie The Year of the Everlasting Storm, which debuted at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. His next project Drift has, according to Deadline, cast Academy Award-nominee Cynthia Erivo as its lead. The film, which is Chen’s English-language debut, chronicles the struggles of a Liberian refugee in Greece.
Brilliante Mendoza, Philippines
In April, Brillante Mendoza received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 19th Asian Film Festival in Rome. The filmmaker has been receiving international acclaim since 2008, when Service was nominated for the Palme d'Or and Mendoza was tipped for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. A year later, he would win Best Director at Cannes for Kinatay, which tells the story of a criminology student who joins a crime syndicate to survive. In 2016, Mendoza would once again showcase his work in Cannes, bagging a Palme d’Or nomination for Ma’ Rosa.
The director, producer and screenwriter has also received praise at the Venice, Berlin and Busan International Film Festivals. Recently, he has been expanding his portfolio, dipping into the world of streaming as a producer for Filipino outfit Vivamax. His 2021 movie Gensan Punch, which won at the Busan International Film Festival, has also been made available on HBO Asia.
His movies are sometimes criticised for focusing on poverty in the Philippines. In an essay penned for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mendoza shares, “When my team creates films, we don’t glorify poverty—we dignify the efforts of those who contend against limits. We place the emphasis on their humanity.”
Hsiao-hsien Hou, Taiwan
Known for films rooted in reality—with thoughtful pacing and wordless scenes—Hsiao-hsien Hou is a champion of Taiwanese cinema. His film The Puppetmaster (1993) won the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival, while The Assassin (2015) won him the Best Director award also at Cannes. In between, several of the master’s movies have been shown at the film festival, including Flight of the Red Balloon (2007), which was the opener for the Un Certain Regard selection at Cannes.
Early this year, fans received good news about the auteur’s long-gestating project Shulan River—according to The Film Stage, Hou was scheduled to begin scouting for the movie’s locations in March 2022. The director has described Shulan River, an adaptation of a Hsieh Hai-meng novel, as “a movie about a river goddess set in the modern era” to Film Comment in a 2015 interview. “Many of the streets in Taipei are named after the old waterways. I thought, if there were a river goddess, she would be very lonely, feeling sad about this situation,” he said.
Apart from a string of acclaimed works that examines Taiwan amid shifting times, Hou has supported local filmmaking by stepping into the role of chairman for the Taipei Film Festival; he is also a committee member of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival.
Discover the changemakers, industry titans and powerful individuals who are making a positive impact on the region in the Asia’s Most Influential list from Tatler.