From 17 to 20 July, the Embassy of France in Singapore had the honour and privilege to host Jean-Jacques Annaud, French film director, for a 4-day visit in Singapore at the occasion of his latest film “Notre-Dame on Fire”.
Known worldwide for many of his major films, most of which are set in Asia, such as “The Lover” (1992), “Seven Years in Tibet” (1997), “Two Brothers” (2004) and “The Wolf Totem” (2015), he has worked with some of the world’s greatest actors such as Sean Connery, Brad Pitt, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes.
His latest film, “Notre Dame on Fire”, pays tribute to the exceptional commitment of the Paris firefighters who, in the dramatic hours of the fire on 15 April 2019, risked their lives and managed to save this architectural treasure and world heritage masterpiece, combined real footage of the fire. The movie, which will be part of the 38th Singapore French Film Festival, will be released in Shaw Theatres at a later part of the year.
This was the first visit to Asia for Jean-Jacques Annaud since the pandemic and whose last visit to Singapore dated more than twenty years back, at the time when he about to film “The Lover” (1992).
A special screening of “Notre-Dame on Fire” was held at Shaw Theatres Lido on 19 July, in partnership with Shaw Organisation, and was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, Mr Heng Swee Keat. HE Mr. Marc Abensour, Ambassador of France to Singapore, gave a welcoming speech which was followed by a film introduction by Jean-Jacques Annaud.
This special screening also served to commemorate the partnership agreement between the Paris Fire Department (Brigade des Sapeurs – Pompiers de Paris – BSPP) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force. The agreement was signed earlier this year and allows France and Singapore to set up a work programme to welcome officers’ exchanges to training sessions as well as initiate collaborative projects on promising technologies.
The screening was followed by a Q&A session with Jean-Jacques Annaud and Mr René Dosne, Former Operational Draftsman, Paris Fire Brigade.
Jean-Jacques Annaud also took time to meet up with cinema students and professionals at LASALLE College of the Arts for a masterclass. The session, which was open to all cinema students and professionals, was moderated by Christopher Shaw, head of the Puttman School of Film & Animation. Jean-Jacques Annaud candidly shared with his audience about his first debut in cinema, what motivated him to be a film director and the films which propelled him to the limelight. He also shared special anecdotes about the filming of his past films as well as behind-the-scenes stories on the set of “Notre-Dame on Fire”.
Jean-Jacques Annaud also held another masterclass in French language at Alliance Française de Singapour, this time with the students studying French. He was accompanied by Mr. René Dosne, Former Operation Draftman at the Paris Fire Brigade, who demonstrated in live the drawing process of a fire as well as its importance. Both Jean- Jacques Annaud and René Dosne took turns to answer the questions about “Notre-Dame on Fire” and its technical aspects, from the audience.
The 3-day visit concluded with the closing of the “(Re) birth” exhibition organised by Alliance Française de Singapour and portrays the Notre–Dame Cathedral’s construction and its successive restorations. The exhibition has attracted thousands of visitors since its opening in April 2022.