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Home to the weird and wonderful
LOCAL film collective SCUM (Society for Cult & Underground Movies) has been chalking up one milestone after another this year.
It came onto the scene about two years ago with free bi-monthly screenings of weird and wonderful films which have never made it to the big screen in Singapore.
These include edgy Japanese pink cinema such as Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972), Blaxploitation flick Black Belt Jones (1974) and violent thriller The Warriors (1979).
It has since started to introduce newer releases in its repertoire. Critically acclaimed action-drama The Raid 2 (2014), sci-fi documentary Jodorowsky's Dune (2013) and low-budget scare-fest It Follows (2014) were all screened earlier this year.
SCUM is now set to embark on its most ambitious project to date: an event billed as Singapore's first Alternative Film Festival. Taking place from next week, Scumscope will feature two premieres and a double-bill of two 1980s horror classics.
Anthony Chiam, who works in the media industry and is one-half of SCUM, says the event is a natural evolution of what he and his partner, designer Herman Ho, have been doing.
"Fundamentally, our aim is to always showcase the bizarre and weird in reel life," explains Mr Chiam, "And one of our main goals was to slowly expand that into a film festival that will include both classics and more contemporary films."
One of the newer films premiering at Scumscope is Dark Star: HR Giger's World (2014), a documentary about the late surrealist artist whose works have inspired numerous sci-fi filmmakers and musicians. Giger is also behind the design of the terrifying monsters in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979).
The other new release is Damnationland 2014, an anthology of short horror films by upcoming Portland filmmakers.
Screening back to back as a double bill are bloody creature feature Basket Case (1982) and Without Warning (1980), a sci-fi thriller often credited for inspiring the Predator (1987-2007) franchise.
The diverse line-up exemplifies the wide range of sub-genres horror films occupy in modern cinema and dovetails nicely with the upcoming Halloween period. "We especially liked Giger's works and thought it might be a good idea to introduce some contemporary films for Halloween 2015 instead of just focusing on the classics," says Mr Chiam, "(But) with the costs involved, we had to limit things to just four films for now."
That is a constant challenge because like all of SCUM's previous screenings, the duo pay for everything out of their own pockets and rely on donations, sponsorships and sales of merchandise to help defray overheads. It rarely charges for admission - the first time it did was for It Follows.Dark Star: HR Giger's World and Damnationland will also be ticketed but the double bill of Basket Case and It Follows will be free.
"We are 100 per cent independent and everything's self-funded... as long as a film can sell and help cover the costs incurred, that would be good enough to keep this initiative self-sustaining in the long run," shares Mr Chiam, "We are definitely planning towards having (Scumscope) on an annual basis... and we eventually hope to become renowned for showcasing kick-a** flicks!"
- Scumscope takes place at The Projector and The Arts House from October 15-29 at various times. For ticketing and line-up details, check the events section of www.scumcinema.com
Festival of movies so bad - they're good
MOST festival programmers will go out of the way to find award-winning arthouse works but the organisers of Fail Film Festival have done the opposite. Its objective: to celebrate movies so bad - they're good.
Self-funded and put together by a group of four friends with a common love of films, the larger message of the festival is to get people to overcome their fear of failure and even learn to embrace it.
"Something can be of value even if it is critically panned so don't write off films that aren't critically acclaimed because you can really enjoy them!" notes Jeremy Goh, one of the fest's founders. The others are Marcus Huang, who pitched the idea; Christl Li and Josh Tang.
To inaugurate the Fail Film Festival, the Sharknado trilogy will be screened. Produced by cable channel Syfy in 2013, the sci-fi disaster flicks revolve around man-eating sharks dispatched by tornadoes and attacking a different American city in each instalment.
The trilogy doesn't shy away from its B-grade status and, as a result, has attracted a cult following that includes celebrities who raved about it online and even had cameos in them. Sharknado has since become an annual summer blockbuster TV movie event and a third sequel is planned for release next year.
Being newbies to the scene, Mr Goh says organising the festival has also challenged the four of them to confront their own fears of failure. "We all come from different industries, none of which include the film industry... Despite our relative lack of experience, the beauty is that though a small team, we each drew on skills we'd acquired through our professional backgrounds to bring something to the table," he explains.
While studying the local film festival landscape and realising that most are either too-serious or geographically based, the four saw the opportunity for creating an original event which simply celebrates films for its entertainment value, regardless of whether critics loved it or not.
They also wanted to create a communal experience where one feels like they are watching a movie with friends. Hence, unlike a typical cinema outing, the audience is encouraged to cut loose and let their hair down at the Fail Film Festival.
"We are encouraging them not to keep quiet or silence their phones, but to mock, riff, and even tweet some of their favourite lines while watching," says Mr Goh.
The organisers also hope to widen the selection of films shown here through their festival because they feel it is currently saturated with either Hollywood blockbusters or arthouse films. "We want to continue entertaining audiences by bringing such alternative content into Singapore or perhaps even showcasing 'failed films' by local producers," shares Mr Goh.
- Fail Film Festival featuring the Sharknado trilogy takes place at The Projector on Oct 17, 23 & 24 at 9.30pm. For more information and ticketing details, check www.failfilmfestival.com
Undergrads take charge
EXPECT to see even more film festivals in the future with the Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information at Nanyang Technological University training a new generation of organisers. The undergrad participants of the Film Festival Practicum course - which runs from May to October every year - do everything from acquiring the works to finding sponsorships and getting publicity.
Open also to students from Humanities and Social Sciences; Nanyang Business School; and School of Art, Design and Media, it culminates in the Perspectives Film Festival (PFF), a ticketed event open to the pubic.
The eighth edition will run from next Thursday to Sunday; and features a full programme that includes an international line-up of films plus a masterclass and post-screening dialogue by a visiting filmmaker. The only thing that changes annually are the theme and the team of undergrads behind the scene.
"Every year, Perspectives Film Festival strives to showcase breakthroughs in cinema centred on a common theme," explains Anna Lai, a Year Three Public Relations major and one of the two Festival Directors on board the upcoming edition, "This was a challenge in itself, as we had to think about the theme we'd like to showcase, and curate the programme based on this, bearing in mind that every film should encompass a breakthrough element as well."
Previous issues PFF touched on include exploration of sexuality and displacement. This year's theme is Transitions and the festival will open with Canadian director Xavier Dolan's Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize 2014 winner Mommy. Acclaimed British filmmaker Martin Rosen will also conduct a masterclass on animation and attend a post-show dialogue after a screening of his 1978 animated classic Watership Down, based on the adventure novel by Richard Adams.
According to Ms Lai, one of the major hurdles they face is sponsorship. "As this is a student-run event, getting support in terms of funding and sponsorship is imperative to the success and quality of the event," she notes, "We have to constantly think about the value we can provide to our sponsors, and give them reasons to support us."
What they learn from it is invaluable though. Ms Lai says the experience has taught her to think on her feet and adapt to situations when things don't go according to plan. PFF's other Festival Director, Tan Yang Er, a fourth year Broadcast major reveals, "It took us almost a month to ease into the role initially and eventually learning to see the bigger picture while not missing out on the details."
Like any event, the PFF aims to draw a crowd and the eclectic selection of seven films being presented will ensure everybody will find something that is up their alley.
"This festival is for everyone - from the avid film connoisseur to the casual moviegoer looking to spend a weekend night entertained," says Ms Tan, " Come with expectancy - expect to watch good stories and expect to be inspired."
- The 8th Perspectives Film Festival takes place at Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore from Oct 15-18, 2015. For full line-up, screening schedule and ticketing details, check www.perspectivesfilmfestival.com