Set in Singapore , ILO ILO chronicles the relationship between a family of three and their newly arrived Filipino maid, Teresa, who has come like many other Filipino women in search of a better life.

The entire family needs to adapt to the presence of this stranger, which further threatens their already strained relationship. Still, Teresa and Jiale, the young and troublesome boy she cares for, soon form a bond. Their unique connection continues to develop and soon she becomes an unspoken part of the family.

But this is 1997 and the Asian Financial Crisis is starting to be felt in all the region…

Ilo Ilo’s major win in London


Ilo Ilo’s winning streak shows no signs of stopping as its quest for world domination continues. Anthony Chen’s intimate domestic drama is flying Singapore’s flag high once more, clinching the First Feature “Sutherland Award” at this year’s BFI (British Film Institute) London Film Festival. The “Sutherland Award” recognises the most original and imaginative directorial debut. This year’s judging panel includes Jury President and co-founder of Number 9 Films Elizabeth Karlsen and Oscar, BAFTA, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor, Jim Broadbent.

“The startlingly assured direction and screenwriting of the winning film surprised us all,” said Karlsen, reading the Jury citation. “Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo also chose a domestic canvas, but the imaginative and innovative voice of this filmmaker elevated the film technically and narratively, and made us wonder at the fragile nature of family life in this modern Singapore tale”.

“I was completely surprised! Not expecting it at all,” Chen told TODAY over the phone on the way to the airport, where he was leaving London right after the awards ceremony, for the 15th Mumbai International Film Festival. Ilo Ilo will be competing in the International Competition for First Feature Films of Directors section, a new section on experimental titles and works by artists from other sectors.

“My wife and I got a shock at the dinner table when it was announced! I am very honoured to put Singapore and Ilo Ilo on the world map again.”

It’s a particularly special win in London as the initial UK premiere at the festival was cancelled at the 11th hour, due to technical audio difficulties which led to an hour wait for the 400-strong audience. Ilo Ilo bounced back with a replacement screening five days later.

“What a beautiful surprise! Every disaster so far results in something beautiful. Perhaps I can afford a few more disasters?” quipped Chen, referencing Ilo Ilo’s infamous power outage technical glitch at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, which the team overcame to emerge as the Camera d’Or winning film. Ilo Ilo will open in U.K. cinemas early 2014, followed by a U.S. run in March 2014. In Asia, the film will be opening in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan next month, followed by the Philippines in December.

With Chen’s recent signing with UTA (United Talent Agency) in the U.S. and Ilo Ilo winning international awards, the world is fully embracing this proudly Singaporean film. Here’s hoping Singaporeans will too.

On home-ground, Chen is just short of his dream box office target of S$1million. Ilo Ilo has mustered S$860,000 (as of Oct 16) since it opened in our cinemas seven weeks. Expected to wrap up its run by the last week of October, this leaves Singapore less than two weeks to catch what the rest of the cinematic world has been buzzing about.