Small Hours of the Night director Daniel Hui

27 January 2024

Film stlll: Small Hours of the Night


Small Hours of the Night director Daniel Hui

27 January 2024

“I would like to continue telling Singaporean and Southeast Asian stories that are true to the reality of the region, and I would like to share these stories with the rest of the world,” director Daniel Hui tells IFFR Pro of his directorial aims and ambitions.

Hui attends IFFR 2024 both with a completed feature and one in development. In the feature Small Hours of the Night, screening in Harbour and produced by his production outfit 13 Little Pictures, the Singaporean judicial system is itself put in the dock as a woman is trapped in a dark room and interrogated by an investigator. Through the course of one long night, their conversation gets increasingly haunted by ghosts from the future.

13 Little Pictures is a Singapore-based independent film collective whose films have been screened to great acclaim across numerous global festivals.

“I have been interested in the unknown and forgotten histories.”

Meanwhile in Hui’s CineMart project Other People's Dreams, co-produced by Momo Film Co and 13 Little Pictures, two runaway souls escaping a dark past meet in the chaos of Singapore. They find a way to survive by stealing, unseen from the public, all the time blending with the rhythms of the dreaming city.

“My films are like a probe I send out into space, to investigate the issues that I am obsessed about, to bring seemingly faraway and hidden things into perspective, and also to see if there is a community out there for my films that would prove that I am not alone in the universe,” Hui of his very specific and nuanced directorial focus. 

He further explains a thematic approach which underlines and defines his auteur aesthetic. “I have been interested in the unknown and forgotten histories/people in Singapore, which itself seems to me to be an unknown and forgotten place to the rest of the world. I want to memorialise their dreams, their traumas, and their imagined futures.”

Concept still: Other People's Dreams

“I am always excited to work with new people.”

“Among my creative team, I have been working with the same actress (Yang Yanxuan Vicki) across my last three films, and the same cinematographer (Looi Wan Ping) since the beginning of my film career,” he adds of the personnel to whom he has continually turned during his career. “However, I am always excited to work with new people and to form new and strong relationships with them, such as my producers on Other People’s Dreams.”

Rotterdam holds a particular place in Hui’s affections. IFFR was the first major film festival he was invited to with his short film, One Day in June, back in 2010. “This is my first return to the festival and I am very excited about it because it currently represents my past (One Day Back In June), present (Small Hours of the Night), and future (Other People’s Dreams). I hope that [with] Small Hours of the Night and Other People’s Dreams [I] can continue to find a new community of friends and collaborators.”

“Thinking like an editor helps me conceive my images.”

Hui is also an accomplished editor who cut Yeo Siew Hua’s Locarno Golden Leopard-winning neo-noir mystery thriller A Land Imagined (2018). Hui was nominated for the Best Editing prize at the Golden Horse FF (Taipei) for his work on the film.

“I enjoy editing because I get to learn different filmmaking perspectives from the directors I work with,” he explains how cutting process informs his wider filmmaking decisions. “Thinking like an editor helps me conceive my images in a more precise way and make decisions more quickly on set as a director. With Small Hours of the Night, I wanted to intentionally restrict my editing options by making the film unfold in real time, so as to get out of my head and force myself to become a better director.”


CineMart unveils 2024 selection

12 December 2023

Full lineup of feature and immersive projects, plus works-in-progress, confirmed.

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