Production Talk - 'Dirty Bitch' by Sun Koh

Sun Koh : Each year, the Province of South Holland takes a look every year at the oeuvre and motives of a high-profile film maker. In a joint venture between the Province of South Holland and International Film Festival Rotterdam, I was commissioned to make a short inspired by the oeuvre of prominent director Claire Denis under their programme "Meet The Maestro". Needless to say I was inspired, particularly by a heavily censored VHS cop of her "Nenette Et Boni" I found in the Esplanade library.

Jeremy (J) : When did you make this film?
Sun (S) : I wrote the film one cold October 2008 afternoon in Moscow, rewrote it ceaselessly throughout November and December. Our film scorer Felix Huang meanwhile scored the sountrack. Winner of French Pop Idol Anne-Laure Sibon wrote some awesome lyrics and rapped even more awesomely for part of our soundtrack as we neared the shoot. Finally we shot it in the last days of December 2008. Audio and video post was done throughout the first 2-thirds of January 2009 by Iceberg Design and Yellowbox respectively. The little (not to mention very dirty) bitch popped out in the form of a HD Cam master on 22 January 2009.
J : I understand it was part of a Rotterdam short film initiative. Can you share more about it?
S : Yes IFFR and the Province of South Holland holds a year round programme for the young people in that region called "Meet The Maestro" that introduces them to the oeuvre of a prominent filmmaker. The IFFR part is to commission 2 filmmakers a year to make a short inspired by the featured maestro's oeuvre and to premiere all our films together and create this (literal) meeting. This year they're featuring the oeuvre of Claire Denis, and the programmers thought I was a suitable candidate, being a woman and a wild one at that.

J : What were the other shorts under this same initiative like?
S : In Meet The Maestro 2007 - Gus Van Sant, Malaysian filmmaker Liew Seng Tat made an intriguing short called "Daughters" that featured some tudung-wearing women riding motorbikes, getting their baju caught in car doors, dating and eating ice-cream. These images have haunted me since even though I have completely forgotten the storyline. And yes, a straw going through a plastic lid has never had a greater impact.

In Meet The Maestro 2008 - The Coen Brothers, Indonesian filmmaker Edwin made a totally amazing short called "Hula Hoop" that starred celebrities Nicholas Saputra and Ladya Cheryl in what can be called the sleekest effects-laden-blockbuster-laugh-out-loud-wet-dream-of-a-short-film-to-date. Now that was a mouthful wasn't it? It had me wide-eyed-and-open-mouth in wonder till today.

Taken together with "Dirty Bitch" (Meet The Maestro 2009 - Claire Denis), I have to say these Southeast Asian filmmakers commissioned under IFFR's "Meet The Maestro" clearly have something in common.I have never seen the 2006 edition though.

J : Is this film a reaction to any incident or person?
S : Censorship and the hidden humour of Claire Denis. She revealed to me that she's always wanted to be a funny person, and in fact she is!

J : You have an interesting cast. Especially the guy whose acting debut was Tau Per in 'The Days'. Can you share more about why you chose them?
S : Tau Per was a funny loser character in THE DAYS. That was basically what I needed for the brother character, and what am impeccable face for cinema! It was too short a time to street cast, so I looked in facebook and found Kevin Tan Song Liang quite easily. Never thought of facebook as a casting tool eh?I always thought Serene Chen had an edge that was never quite utilised in her previous roles. Plus she's a good actor and she looked the role.Wonder-woman cum maverick stage director Loretta Chen was a natural choice for the gynaecologist-turned-gangstress-rap-star. If you've seen the film, you'll agree with me that she's totally made for the role.

J : Given the title, should we be expecting lots of sex? Or perhaps something about female empowerment?
S : What's life without a little humour and sex? Actually you should expect more naughtiness than anything else. I can't help it, being woman... There's always this sense of female empowerment in my films, albeit in ironical ways. Power and weakness are sides of the same coin.

J : Is this totally funded by Rotterdam? Or SFC? For the benefit of other filmakers, how was it like getting funding or sponsorship for this film?
S : Our short film grant application was rejected by SFC so we counted on the goodwill of our cast, crew and suppliers to keep the cost down. Fortunately, I also had the support of my longterm collaborators Roszali Samad and Shooting Gallery Asia, who played an integral role in realising the film. Given the high cost of doing anything in Singapore, it ended up being largely funded by IFFR.

J : Will you be working (can be writing or even pre-prod) on another feature soon?
S : Yes I'm inspired. As usual, it will be something very different from whatever else I've done before.

Catch Sun Koh's Dirty Bitch under Singapore Panorama at SIFF this year.
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