Akanga Film Asia (Singapore), mm2 Entertainment (Singapore), Films de Force Majeure (France), and Volya Films (the Netherlands) are proud to announce that YEO Siew Hua’s feature film, A LAND IMAGINED, has won the Golden Leopard, the Locarno Film Festival’s Grand Prize for Best Film, at the 71st edition of the prestigious festival in Switzerland. This top prize was awarded by the International Competition jury, including director Sean BAKER and writer Emmanuel CARRÈRE, and presided by China’s JIA Zhang-ke.
World premiering at Locarno Film Festival, one of the world’s longest-running festivals, A LAND IMAGINED also clinched the 1st prize of the Festival’s Junior Jury Awards (by young film fans for the best director), plus a Special Mention from the Ecumenical Jury (for “sensitising the viewer to religious, people-related, and social values”). In addition, independent critics presented A LAND IMAGINED’s lead actress, Luna KWOK, with the Boccalino d’Oro Prize for Best Actress.
A LAND IMAGINED is the first film from Singapore to win the prestigious Golden Leopard. Previous winners of this acclaimed prize, awarded since 1946, include STRANGER THAN PARADISE (Jim Jarmusch), RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN (Hong Sang-soo), DISTANT VOICES, STILL LIVES (Terence Davies), and FROM WHAT IS BEFORE (Lav Diaz).
In A LAND IMAGINED, set in industrial Singapore, police investigator Lok (Peter YU) must find missing migrant worker Wang (LIU Xiaoyi). Wang suffers a worksite accident and is afraid of repatriation. Unable to sleep, he frequents a dreamy cybercafé in the dead of the night. Hoping to find some form of human connection in this foreign land, Wang forms a virtual friendship with a mysterious gamer that takes a sinister turn. When Wang suddenly disappears, Lok digs deep into the trail leading to a land reclamation site and uncovers the truth beneath all that sand. The Chinese-language thriller also stars Luna KWOK (KAILI BLUES), Jack TAN (SHUTTLE LIFE), and ISHTIAQUE Zico.
At Locarno, A LAND IMAGINED was hailed by international critics—topping three best-of lists—as “not only ‘the most mysterious film’ of the competition, but also possibly the best one” (MaSeDomani). Calling Yeo “an ambitious filmmaker”, Screen International praised how his film “forces the viewer to consider notions of truth and reality” while Switzerland’s Le Temps regarded it as “a reflection oscillating between dream and nightmare”, highlighting the “magnificent” cinematography of Hideho URATA. Libération of France found A LAND IMAGINED a “seductive” film noir, “bathed in pink light”; and Portugal’s Publico wrote that it “works wonders” with Urata’s “suspenseful and atmospheric” cinematography and Daniel HUI’s editing.
On this historic win, the overjoyed writer-director Yeo says: “A LAND IMAGINED is the culmination of my reflections on Singapore and other global dream cities. I want to thank the amazing Locarno Film Festival, its jury members, and all the cast and crew for helping make this vision a reality. I hope that through it, we can collectively be transformed.”
The film’s producer, Fran BORGIA, founder of Akanga Film Asia, added: “To be awarded the top prize at Locarno is one of our wildest dreams come true. A LAND IMAGINED’s win is the first-ever top prize for a Singapore film in an A-List festival, and it’s also a win for the next generation of Singaporean and Southeast Asian filmmakers.”
Before its world premiere, A LAND IMAGINED’s international sales rights were picked up by US-based sales company, Visit Films. Worldwide release plans are in the works, with its promotion and distribution strategies supported by the TorinoFilmLab Audience Design Fund 2018. Developed at the SEAFIC film lab, Yeo’s next film, STRANGER EYES, will be pitched at the Busan International Film Festival’s Asian Project Market in October 2018.
A Singapore-France-Netherlands co-production, A LAND IMAGINED is supported by the New Talent Feature Grant of Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority; the Aide aux Cinémas du Monde of Le Centre National du Cinéma et de L’image Animée (the National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image) or CNC of France; as well as the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam and Nederlands Filmfonds. The film is also supported by the Asia Pacific Screen Lab (Australia), Autumn Meeting (Vietnam), and Talents Tokyo (Japan).