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Pop Aye first Singapore film to compete at Sundance

Local director Kirsten Tan's debut feature-length film Pop Aye premiered yesterday to a full-house at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah.

The film was opening the World Cinema Dramatic Competition on the first day of the Sundance Film Festival 2017, making it the first time a Singapore film has competed at the prestigious American festival.

Pop Aye follows an architect and his elephant as they travel across Thailand in search of the farm they grew up on. It was shot entirely in Thailand with Thai actors and crew.

It played to a hall filled with laughter, and several audience members were moved to tears.

"I am completely overwhelmed by the reception and the reactions to the film," said Tan, 31.

The Straits Times reported that all five screenings of the film at the indie film festival have sold out.

It has also received glowing early reviews from US media.

Variety said: "Warm yet unsentimental, graced with the lightest touch of surrealism, this opening-night offering from Sundance's world cinema dramatic competition is a joy for patient viewers."

Screen Daily said: "Thailand-set, Singapore-backed drama Pop Aye is a charming tall tale about a disillusioned big city dweller who reunites for a road trip with his family's elderly elephant. Soft and sweet, Kirsten Tan's bright and airy debut is also quietly eloquent, speaking of a loss and regret."

Hollywood Reporter said: "The hometown-bound peregrinations through Thailand of a city man and his elephant make for a tender and sharply etched journey in Pop Aye. Loneliness, alienation, the ache of nostalgia and the everyday absurdity of life infuse every encounter in the unconventional road trip. Like the journey it depicts, the first feature by New York-based, Singapore-raised writer-director Kirsten Tan is unhurried and unforgettable."