Inspired by his childhood memories, Singaporean director Anthony Chen’s first feature-length film Ilo Ilo is loosely based on his experience in the care of “Auntie Terry.”
Singapore’s official entry to the 68th Academy Awards in March 2014, the movie is about an over-seas Filipino worker (OFW) from the province of Iloilo who was hired to look after a brood of three boys by the names of Anthony, Justin and Christopher.
The Singapore Tourism Board held a pre-screening of the film on December 2 at Resorts World Manila in Pasay City, attended by the 29-year-old director who shared his experience in writing the script and finally bringing Ilo Ilo to life.
With Chen and the Singaporean Ambassador to the Philippines VP Hirubalan as guests of honor, the Singapore Embassy promoted the highly acclaimed film as a way of strengthening bilateral ties between the two nations.
“The movie shows how family is important in both cultures, in growing up, sharing and caring for one another. It shows how the human nature of goodness can work.
You experience the true feelings of ordinary situations when you watch the movie,” the Singaporean ambassador said.
Chen proudly shared the process of writing the script, which lasted him three years. “I had a lot of ideas coming in, but I had to be obsessed, and none of the ideas I had then sparked that desire of something. Then, all of sudden I had these sudden memories of childhood recurring, and that’s when I started the script.
“The film is able to reach that complex emotion towards a person who is not your family, not your friend, someone you have no relation with but then you get used to this person and she becomes a part of you,” Chen explained.
Set in a tenement in Singapore, Ilo Ilo tells a moving tale about Terry, a young mother who left Iloilo to work as a maid. She is employed by an ordinary family, where she quickly meets her biggest challenge—a precocious 10-year-old boy by the name of Jiale. Terry also has to deal with the boy’s mother, a suspicious pregnant working woman who always needs to be in control, as well as his father who just lost his job in the middle of the Asian financial crisis.
Given these scenarios the Filipina OFW and the Singaporean family struggle to understand each other, and yet eventually build connections despite their differences, fears and frustrations.
The lead role is played by independent film actress Angeli Bayani. She is Auntie Terry, inspired by Chen’s real life nanny, Teresita Sajonia, who is now 55 years old and a native of San Miguel town in Iloilo.
Winner of the Cannes 2013 Camera d’Or (Best Debut Feature), Ilo Ilo opened in select theaters nationwide, beginning December 4.