COMPARING THE film industries of Singapore and Hong Kong is a bit like stacking the Canadian film industry against Hollywood. Even at its lowest ebb, Hong Kong produces between 90 and 100 films a year, many of which are distributed overseas. Singapore, on the other hand, turns out an average of four or five movies a year, lacks its own star system and only occasionally produces films that travel beyond Southeast Asia. However, a handful of directors and producers have emerged in recent years who appear to be pushing the Lion City towards the world stage. Directors such as Eric Khoo, Jack Neo and newcomer Royston Tan are attracting an increasing amount of attention from international film festivals and distributors. At the same time, homegrown successes such as Neo's I Not Stupid and Money No Enough, directed by Tay Teck Lock, prove Singaporean films can hold their own against Hollywood at the local box office. Neo, who struck box office gold last year with I Not Stupid - a comedy about the pressures of Singapore's competitive school system - is hoping he can repeat that success with his forthcoming film, Home Run, which is due for release in Singapore this August. It's a remake of an Iranian movie, Majid Majidi's award-winning Children Of Heaven, a heart-warming tale of an impoverished brother and sister who go to extraordinary lengths to share a pair of shoes at school. Although Neo has remained true to the basic story and spirit of the original, he has transplanted his version to Singapore in 1965, 'when there was a lot of uncertainty in Singaporean society', he says. Neo first saw Children Of Heaven in Singapore a few years ago and was immediately inspired by the story. 'It's about the power of love in the family which is a very Asian story. All the different communities in Singapore - Chinese, Malays and Indians - are united by the importance they place on family.' However, he initially thought it would be difficult to move the story to Singapore and instead made I Not Stupid, which looks at the specific problems faced by Singaporean kids. He later changed his mind, believing that, even if he set the film in the Singapore of the past, it would have many parallels to the present day. Executive producer Daniel Yun explains: 'Singaporeans face almost as much uncertainty now as we did then in terms of the rapid changes in society. We're also up against some of the same problems including high unemployment and disease. In the 1960s it was tuberculosis and today it's Sars.' Another recent Singaporean film with a social conscience - but a much grittier storyline - is 15, the debut feature of award-winning short film director Royston Tan. Produced by Eric Khoo's production company, Zhao Wei Films, it tells the story of five teenagers who are unable to keep up with the high expectations of Singaporean society and become mixed up with criminal gangs. The film is currently being reviewed by local film censors and is unlikely to emerge without major cuts. However, Raintree Pictures, the MediaCorp-owned production company behind I Not Stupid and Home Run, is developing an English-language romantic comedy, Leap Of Love, which will showcase the shiny side of city. 'There's no reason why we can't produce big, commercial films that compete in the world market,' says Yun, who is also CEO of Raintree. 'Hollywood romantic comedies like Pretty Woman and Maid In Manhattan usually have glamorous settings in cosmopolitan cities - and we've got all of that right here in Singapore. We also speak English so we're in a strong position to become the gateway between East and West.' Adapted from the novella by local author Catherine Lim, Leap Of Love is about a girl who, in keeping with the Western tradition, proposes to her dream man on February 29. Raintree is co-producing the film with a Canadian company, Spaceworks Entertainment, which will help tailor the script for Western audiences. Raintree hopes to start shooting the film in Singapore this October.