Singapore—Filmmaker, film critic and writer Sandi Tan has marked another career coup in landing the cover story for this year’s Vanity Fair’s Oscar edition, wherein she interviewed Bong Joon Ho, the director of Parasite, on his groundbreaking film.
Ms Tan’s story, “Parasite Power: Director Bong Joon Ho on His Edgy Oscar Contender” was published in the online edition of Vanity Fair on Monday (Jan 27.) The Korean film won the Palme D’Or in last year’s Cannes Film Festival and has six nominations going in the Oscar Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best International Feature Film. It is the first Korean movie to be recognized in this way.
Early on Tuesday morning, she tweeted “Get the print edition of @VanityFair to read my profile of #Bong @ParasiteMovie (it’s a collectible *eight-page spread*!) in which he talks to me about ANXIETY!!! #BongHive Online if you’re impatient/lazy: https://vanityfair.com/hollywood/2020/01/oscar-special-2020-bong-joon-ho“
Get the print edition of @VanityFair to read my profile of #Bong @ParasiteMovie (it’s a collectible *eight-page spread*!) in which he talks to me about ANXIETY!!! #BongHive Online if you’re impatient/lazy: https://t.co/7BzU1ccOyq pic.twitter.com/Zj7G45DzGn
— Sandi Tan (@sanditan) January 27, 2020
A self-admitted fan of the Korean director for a number of years now, Ms Tan recounts how she had first heard about “Parasite” from actress Tilda Swinton, who is a friend of both Mr Bong and Ms Tan. “Parasite is a masterpiece!” Ms Swinton told Ms Tan.
Ms Tan, who has been a film critic for The Straits Times while she was still in her early 20s, from 1993 to 1995, earned a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from the film school of Columbia University.
In 1996, she made her debut at 1996 Singapore International Film Festival with her very first short film, Moveable Feast.
She released her well-received first novel, The Black Isle, in 2012, and in 2018, her full-length documentary, Shirkers, was featured at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary. Shirkers was also nominated for the Gotham Independent Film Award for Shirkers for Best Documentary that year.
Shirkers, which can still be viewed on Netflix, is Ms Tan’s own story, or rather, the story of Ms Tan at 18, when she made a full-length film with her two best friends, Jasmine Ng and Sophia Siddique. That film was entitled Shirkers and was set in Singapore. It was about a 16-year old killer, S, played by Ms Tan. “A real and imaginary” time capsule, she calls it.
“When I was 18,” the filmmaker says at the beginning of the movie, “I had so many ideas I hardly slept at all.”
But the footage of the film was left with her mentor, Georges Cardona, whom she never saw again after the halcyon time in her late teens when the movie was made, a loss that deeply affected Ms Tan’s creative spirit.
Some years after the death of Mr Cardona in 2007, the film’s footage was returned to Ms Tan, who reworked it into another documentary that was all about how the original film was made.
The film met critical acclaim worldwide and catapulted Ms Tan into the spotlight. The Guardian called it “a love letter to Singapore.”
In a review, critic David Fear wrote in The Rolling Stone, “What Tan has given us is an incredible, sui generis tribute to the international lingua franca of D.I.Y. cinempowerment. She’s also telling us the story of how one person stole a big part of her youth. This documentary is her stealing it back. Victory, finally, is hers.”
Up next for Ms Tan is the film adaptation of Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, an acclaimed 2017 autobiographical novel. About the novel, Ms Tan said, “It’s about this woman who is head smart and heart stupid — that’s why she’s the idiot,” she explains. “And she’s being sucked into this vortex of obsession by this guy, and by the end of it she gets destroyed. But instead of turning into a vampire, she turns into an artist. And to watch that transformation is a wonderful thing.” -/TISG