Singaporean American filmmaker Kirsten Tan is the winner of the 2020 SFFILM New American Fellowship, supporting her current narrative feature Higher, which is in the development and screenwriting stage.
The first of its kind in the US film industry, the New American Fellowship is made possible thanks to SFFILM’s collaboration with the Flora Family Foundation and provides a $25,000 cash grant and a FilmHouse artist residency in San Francisco to an independent director or producer who has recently moved to the United States. Designed to amplify the voices of international filmmakers and to champion their work in the US, the New American Fellowship seeks to support films by new American artists, ultimately providing meaningful and challenging experiences to public audiences.
The panelists who reviewed the applicants’ submissions are filmmaker Fawaz Al-Matrouk; Sofia Alicastro, Manager: Filmmaker Programs at SFFILM; Fay Darmawi, Founder and Executive Producer of the SF Urban Film Fest; Lauren Kushner, Interim Director of Artist Development at SFFILM; and Abhi Singh, Member of the Board of Directors at Flora Family Foundation.
The review panel said in a statement: “This review cycle was extremely competitive and it is clear how many amazing artists who have recently arrived in the United States are in need of resources, funding, and community. Kirsten Tan’s distinct and soulful voice, rich satire, and artful vision stood out to us. Her intention to subvert familiar spaces and sights, and to give voice to outsiders, social rejects, and the marginalized excited the committee, and we were struck by the clear talent and abundant potential of this artist and project.”
“My next feature project, Higher, is in its early stages of development and receiving SFFILM’s New American Fellowship at this juncture is a huge confidence booster,” said Tan. “Reading Jack Kerouac’s novels growing up, San Francisco has always carried an attractive air of progressive freedom to me so I thoroughly look forward to exploring and learning more about the city. I often write better in new environments as the unfamiliarity creates an imaginary tension that feeds the writing. I know the residency will certainly provide a respite for me as I work towards a shooting version of Higher’s screenplay.”
Kirsten Tan is a New York-based Singaporean filmmaker whose debut feature Pop Aye premiered as the Opening Night film of the World Cinema Dramatic competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. The film went on to receive a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, the VPRO Big Screen Award at Rotterdam, the Best International Film Award at Zurich, and the Audience Award at Innsbruck. To date, it has screened at over 50 film festivals and was invited to represent Singapore in the Foreign-film Category at the Oscars. Before Pop Aye, her short films 10 Minutes Later, Fonzi, Sink, Cold Noodles, and Dahdi have collectively received over ten international awards. Ella, a fashion film she directed for Giorgio Armani, was included in the permanent film collection of MoMA in NYC. A Sundance Institute and Cinereach Film Fellow, Tan earned her MFA at NYU Graduate Film School, where she received the Tisch School of the Arts Fellowship.
Higher: As a mysterious flood rises through a metropolitan apartment building, its residents fight for survival and resources, setting off an absurdist satire of five interlocking stories that grapple with morality, truth, and justice.