Singapore film-maker Nelson Yeo’s Dreaming & Dying wins 2 awards for first feature films at Locarno Film Festival

August 31, 2023
Posted by
The Straits Times

Lim Ruey Yan

SINGAPORE – Singaporean film-maker Nelson Yeo’s debut feature Dreaming & Dying has won two awards at the Locarno Film Festival.

The film, which had its world premiere at the prestigious Swiss festival, held from Aug 2 to last Saturday, won the coveted Filmmakers of the Present – Golden Leopard (Pardo d’oro Cineasti del presente) award and Swatch First Feature Award (Prize for Best First Feature).

It was the first time a South-east Asian film and Singaporean director had won the two top prizes in the Cineasti del presente category of the film festival, according to a press statement.

The Concorso Cineasti del presente section offers a selection of first and second feature films, primarily world premieres, directed by emerging global talent.

Dreaming is a fantasy drama about three middle-aged friends on holiday who are meeting for the first time in years. Things take a turn when something from their past comes to the surface.

It stars Straits Times Life Theatre Awards winner Doreen Toh, veteran television and film actor Peter Yu, and actor Kelvin Ho, and is shot by rising Singaporean cinematographer Lincoln Yeo.

Both Yu and Ho were in A Land Imagined (2018), a drama written and directed by Yeo Siew Hua (no relation to Nelson Yeo) which won Locarno’s top award, the Golden Leopard.

“It is a really amazing experience to return to Locarno Film Festival with my first feature film, Dreaming & Dying, to win this distinguished award and screen to sold-out audiences who appreciate and love our film,” said Nelson Yeo, who is also the film’s screenwriter, in the press statement.

“We are excited to bring the Leopard home and share it with our team.”

Yeo’s short film credits include Mary, Mary, So Contrary (2019), which won Best Experimental Short at the Golden Ger International Film Festival; and Here Is Not There (2020), which was awarded Best Asean Short Film at the Bangkok Asean Film Festival and Best Singapore Short Film at the Singapore International Film Festival.

More recently, Plastic Sonata (2022) won CathayPlay Best Chinese Short Film at SeaShorts Film Festival.

Dreaming is produced by Singapore-based Momo Film Co, with Tan Si En and Sophia Sim as producers.

Tan’s producing credits include two Anthony Chen films, the feature-length drama Wet Season (2019) and the short film The Break Away, released as part of the anthology The Year Of The Everlasting Storm (2021).

Nelson Yeo (centre) and crew members at the 76th Locarno International Film Festival in Locarno, Switzerland, on Aug 12. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

“We started the journey of this film with no funds, grants, markets but with a solid team and dream we kept preserving,” said Tan in the statement.

“This is a wonderful recognition and we are thankful to everyone who supported us along the way and partners who believed in the space and story we tried to create.”