K-drama craze inspires Singapore movie produced by Anthony Chen
A few years ago, Singaporean film-maker He Shuming saw that his mother, like so many here, had become transfixed by a particular form of entertainment.
"I noticed her obsession with K-drama and how it became a big part of her life. She was, and still is, very fond of it," says He, 36.
That observation became the screenplay for his feature directing debut, Ajoomma. The production, shot mostly in Seoul, South Korea, has just wrapped filming.
The comedy-drama tells the story of a widow from Singapore, Auntie, a K-drama fanatic. Played by veteran home-grown actress Hong Huifang in her first outing as lead in a feature film, she becomes lost in South Korea while searching for a new purpose.
The film also featuresSouth Korean actors Jung Dong-hwan (romantic comedy series Hotel Del Luna, 2019) and Kang Hyung-suk (romance series Crashing Landing On You, 2019), with Yeo Jin-goo (romantic comedy series Hotel Del Luna, 2019) guest starring as himself. Singaporean actor Shane Pow also co-stars.
The movie is produced by Singapore film-maker Anthony Chen (the award-winning drama Ilo Ilo, 2013) under his Giraffe Pictures label.
Written by He and Kris Ong, the screenplay won Most Promising Project at the Singapore International Film Festival's Southeast Asian Film Lab in 2015.
He received the National Arts Council's Young Artist Award in 2019, based on his work such as the Pulau Ubin documentary Homecoming (2016) and short films.
A graduate of the American Film Institute and the LaSalle College Of The Arts, Singapore, he tells The Straits Times that Ajoomma is "framed as a drama, but with a lot of humour".
"It's inspired by how aunties like my mother navigate that period in their lives when their children carve out their own journeys," he adds.
The film is now in post-production and expected to be released at the end of 2022 or early 2023.
The project's Korean cast members have still not gotten used to the global impact of their work, he says.
"The actors are amazed and still surprised by the fan base they have outside the country."