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The Obs, A Singapore Story
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Stray Dogs
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Chiang Khan Story
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Meeting Dr Sun
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Forma offer insights into life in Asia
CINEMA

Impressive Asian fare at film festival

The Singapore International Film Festival has always featured a strong showcase of Asian movies and this year's edition is no different. Here are five must-see efforts from both established and new directors.
Dec 5, 2014 5:50 AM

The Obs: A Singapore Story (Singapore)

Dec 6, 11am, National Museum of Singapore

THE Observatory is not your typical hipster indie band so don't expect The Obs: A Singapore Story to be your average rockumentary. Filled with archival interview footage, it tracks the band's rise from outsider status to its current status as darlings of the alternative music scene. But the journey has been a difficult one with various members leaving over the years, including founding guitarist Dharma calling it quits just last month.

Director Yeo Siew Hua also paints a bigger picture of the local music industry, looking at how it peaked in the Sixties, when it had a strong following and abundant airplay on the radio, before things started going downhill in the Seventies and the struggles faced by bands like The Observatory to revive it ever since then.

Stray Dogs (Taiwan/France)

Dec 7, 4.30pm, Shaw Lido

IT'S not every day that you get to watch an arthouse Tsai Ming-liang film in Singapore and with the two-year break SGIFF took, he must have been missed by his fans here. But this year's programmers have more than made up for that with not one but two offerings from the Kuching-born director. His latest work, Journey to the West, an abstract and experimental reinterpretation of the classic Chinese tale, was screened last week while Stray Dogs will play this weekend. The latter is Tsai's heartbreaking meditation on urban poverty in Taiwan and it won the Grand Jury Prize at last year's Venice International Film Festival. Staged against the hopeless existence of an alcoholic man and his two children, and presented as a series of bleak yet beautifully staged vignettes, Stray Dogs takes its audience on a hypnotic journey through the darkest of human souls.

Chiang Khan Story (Thailand)

Dec 10, 7.15pm, MBS

THE Thai film industry is one of the biggest in the region so the lack of quality control (and abundance of horror flicks) can sometimes be a problem. But there are also plenty of gems to be found, such as the latest work from genre-defying director Yuthlert Sippapak, who has dabbled in everything from action to comedy and, of course, horror. If you enjoyed the hit 2003 nostalgic Thai dramedy Fan Chan (My Girl), then you will like Chiang Khan Story, a sweet rom-com about first loves and growing up in the disco era. Named after a district in Sippapak's hometown of Loei, this coming-of-age tale also pays homage to classic Thai cinema and stars teen idols Kao Jirayu La-ongmanee and Chontida Asavahame for maximum commercial appeal.

Meeting Dr Sun (Taiwan)

Dec 13, 2pm, Shaw Lido

MEETING Dr Sun might sound like the title of an epic historical drama about Sun Yat-sen but it's in fact a rib-tickling comedy which surprisingly also cuts deep with its sharp social commentary on poverty. Set in Taipei, the plot revolves around four poor students who are so desperate to pay their school fees that they resort to stealing a statue of Dr Sun to sell as scrap metal. The film's lighthearted but witty dialogue earned Taiwanese new wave writer-director Yee Chih-yen, better known for more serious dramas such as Lonely Hearts Club (1995) and Blue Gate Crossing (2002), a Golden Horse award for Best Original Screenplay last month and Best Script at the Taipei Film Awards.

Forma (Japan)

Dec 14, 11am, National Museum of Singapore

FIRST-TIME director Ayumi Sakamoto's slow-burning minimalist thriller Forma has polarised festival audiences and critics alike with some loving it with the same passion that others loathe it. The plot revolves around two former classmates whose reunion goes completely haywire when they start working together. Six years in the making and at 145 minutes long, it's nothing short of an ambitious debut but the slow pace really tests one's patience. But stick around until the end for the much- talked about climax - a 25-minute single-take which will both surprise and horrify.

For the full line-up of films, check www.sgiff.com. Tickets for these films are available at S$12 from Sistic.