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Anthony Chen
Photo: Giraffe Pictures

Interview with local director Anthony Chen on his new film Wet Season

His latest drama Wet Season opens Singapore International Film Festival this year

Cam Khalid
Written by
Cam Khalid

After the success of Ilo Ilo, Singapore writer-director Anthony Chen wasted no time getting back behind the camera for another female-focused film. Set during the monsoon season, Wet Season follows Mandarin teacher Ling (played by Yeo Yann Yann) and her student Wei Lun (played by Koh Jia Ler) as they form an unlikely relationship. The former bears the burden of failing to bear a child for her often-absent husband, while the latter provides her with solace that reaffirms her womanhood. With six nominations in this year’s Golden Horse Awards and a spot at the Toronto International Film Festival in the bag, Wet Season is definitely one to watch. Before it hits Capitol Theatre on November 21, we take a trip into the mind of Anthony Chen.

On the idea of a woman desperate to bear a child
“Somehow, the idea sunk into my head and I have since been obsessed by this woman losing herself under the pressures of straddling the expectations of a modern working-woman and dutiful wife. This oddly mirrors my own experience of trying to start a family with my wife. The desperation and pain, resilience and determination of Ling (the lead character) is something I greatly empathise with.”

Photo: Giraffe Pictures 

Human relationships are always complex
“The lines blur in terms of the relationship between Wei Lun and his teacher. Is Ling a lover or a replacement mother? Is Wei Lun a replacement for her absentee husband or the son she has always wanted? I always felt that our emotions tend to lead us to places we never thought possible. This ambiguity in human connections and bonds has always and will continue to intrigue me.”

All the rain scenes in the film are created on set artificially
“We originally thought of using VFX for many of the complicated rain scenes. However, our independent film budget couldn’t cover it. And rain and water CGI effects are complicated to pull off in a realist film like ours. In the end, a hundred percent of the rain in the film was created via practical effects.”

Photo: Giraffe Pictures  

The pressures of Wet Season didn’t come from the awards and success of Ilo Ilo
“For me, it has always been about being truthful to my characters and my story. That has always been the biggest challenge. I like to think I’m my biggest critic, and it’s important that I can confront the work not just now but for years and years later.”

I have two minds about the local film scene
“I’m excited by the new wave of filmmaking talents such as Boo Junfeng, Kirsten Tan, K Rajagopal and Yeo Siew Hua. We have some of the brightest talents in Asia at the moment and I couldn't be prouder of our film community. Yet at the same time, I wish audiences are more supportive of these filmmaking efforts. The international recognition has not translated to box office sales.”

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