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[InC-terview] Kelvin Tong on his new movie Republic of Food!

By Say Peng  /  15 Aug 2018 (Wednesday)

Award-winning Singaporean director Kelvin Tong has a new film!

Titled Republic of Food, it is Singapore's first dystopian film. Following the popular success of his 7 Letters comedy short Grandma Positioning Device, Republic of Food is also the first feature-length comedy of Kelvin Tong, who has been known more for his horror films (The Maid, The Faith of Anna Waters).

InCinemas speak to director Tong about his latest film.

How did this film come about?
Kelvin Tong: After participating in last year's Lapis Sagu project, I was very intrigued about how Singapore is becoming more and more diverse. This interest made me want to explore the themes of social harmony fuller in a feature film. And hence, Republic Of Food, which uses food as a window into these issues.

What were the challenges in creating a dystopian world?
KT: We weren't making a sci-fi film so the usual problems of computer graphics, projecting into the future, etc did not arise. Our world is set in the very near future where the only difference between then and now is a global ban on real food. So my main concern was to get the actors to constantly think about how the lack of real food affects their characters. One way was to keep them hungry on set.

Was KF Seetoh involved in the scriptwriting process?
KT: While Seetoh was not involved in the writing of the screenplay, he was a great resource when it comes to local food. There were a few occasions when I ran some bits of the script involving Singapore dishes like mee rebus by him. The man is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to makan.

What was it like working with such a huge ensemble cast, especially with Adrian Pang, Yeo Yann Yann and Alexandra Tan?
KT: It was a blast. The entire cast was so diverse, in their backgrounds, work, ethnicity and age group. In a way, they were a slice of Singapore - entirely rojak. For a filmmaker, collaborating with such a motley bunch of talented actors was like being let loose in a never-ending buffet dinner.

Everyone loves food. But Singapore, more than any country in the world, seems to be obsessed with food to the extent that our national identity is partly defined by it. Why do you think that is? 
KT: Singapore's love affair with food probably stems from our forefather's immigrant roots. They came from faraway lands and found solace by creating and eating the foods they used to eat back home. This intimate act of remembrance seeped into the DNA of their descendants and flowered in Singapore's full-on obsession with eating.
The world is about to end. What would your last meal be?
KT: My mother's bee tai mak.

Republic of Food will open in cinemas from 16 August. Don't watch on an empty stomach!
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