BBC’s Mishal Husain talks to Singapore filmmaker Eric Khoo in new series Mishal Husain Meets
I just really wanted to tell the stories I wanted to tell at that point in time."Eric Khoo
Fronted by BBC presenter Mishal Husain and filmed at the NYU Tisch School of The Arts in Singapore, the series goes in depth with leaders from arts, science and sports from across Asia Pacific to find out what it takes to launch a successful career.
In the third episode of the series, scheduled to air on 11th August, Singapore filmmaker Eric Khoo joins Mishal and traces his rise in moviemaking – from the age of eight when he experimented with his mother’s Super 8 camera to present day acclaim as a pioneer of Singapore cinema.
Born in 1965 as the youngest son to a billionaire, Khoo displayed a keen interest in the arts from a young age. Khoo credits his mother for introducing him to movies when he was just two years old. He was educated at United World College of South East Asia before going on to study cinematography in Sydney, Australia. Upon his return to Singapore, he had a spell as a cartoonist and a director of TV commercials before finally turning his hand to directing short films. Khoo’s earlier titles include August, a tale about a dog’s love for his master told through the eyes of the pet, and Pain, a story about a sadomasochist man which won Khoo headlines and an award at the Singapore International Film festival. His hard-hitting and controversial themes soon earned him a reputation as someone who wasn’t afraid to broach taboo topics in his films.
Armed with sponsorships from his award for Pain, Khoo went on to make his first feature film, Mee Pok Man, about a lonely hawker who bonds with a prostitute. His debut put Singapore on the international film scene. His other features have also gone on to win international accolades – including 12 Storeys, his second feature, the first Singapore film to be invited officially to participate in the Cannes Film Festival (1997). Khoo is also seen as something of a local hero in the arts scene. He was the first recipient of the Young Artist's Award for Film in 1997. Ten years later, he was awarded the nation's highest arts honour: the Cultural Medallion.
He says he didn’t try deliberately to provoke controversy with his earlier films: “I just really wanted to tell the stories I wanted to tell at that point in time.”
Khoo has some straightforward advice for young filmmakers: “Go ahead and make what you believe in. I think for young filmmakers just to be provocative for the sake of being provocative isn’t really quite the answer. You have to really feel for the content and that has to be sincere.”
Mishal Husain Meets, broadcast in association with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, will air weekly on BBC World News from 28 July on Saturdays at 01.30 and 08.30, and again on Sundays at 14.30 and 20.30 (all times GMT).
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