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Promoting Chinese culture through films
THE Singapore Chinese Film Festival may be celebrating its fifth anniversary but it is still scoring many firsts. Among those are first-time directors whose award-winning works feature prominently on this year's line-up. There is also the introduction of a segment that is dedicated to restored classics, and a showcase made up entirely of Singapore short films.
Organised by the Singapore Film Society (SFS) and Singapore University of Social Sciences, the ten-day event opens on Friday with the highly-acclaimed Mad World. The mental illness drama is the debut feature of 28-year-old Hong Kong film-maker Wong Chun, who won the Best New Director prizes at both the Golden Horse and Hong Kong Film Awards this year.
Other first-timers in the line-up include the trio of Frank Hui, Jevons Au and Vicky Wong, whose gangster anthology Trivisa was named Best Picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards; and Zhang Dalei, whose black-and-white coming-of-age drama The Summer is Gone was this year's Golden Horse Best Picture winner.
When asked about the slew of award-winning films in this year's line-up, SFS' vice-chairman David Lee puts it down to coincidence.
"The festival has always been a champion of deserving films that don't get released commercially, and as programmers, we keep tabs and shortlist features way before they contest in any award ceremonies."
Like previous editions, everything is screened unedited and in its original dialogue instead of being dubbed into Mandarin, which is the practice for Chinese movies that get a general release in cinemas here.
Many of the films such as Mad World and Andy Lo's dementia tear-jerker Happiness also deal with dark and depressing themes which Mr Lee notes is a trend among first-time Hong Kong directors: "Those films reflect social realism and we're seeing more and more of that as the more established directors head to China to make films . . . It's natural for young film-makers to look inwards as a starting point and this almost parallels what happened in the Taiwanese film industry during the eighties when social upheavals gave rise to a new wave of film-makers."
Incidentally, one of them is Edward Yang, whose four-hour magnum opus, A Brighter Summer Day (1991), will be screened in digital 4K resolution as part of the Restored Classics segment.
The festival's closing film is also a blast from the past which has been given a new lease of life - Love and Duty, a 1931 black-and-white melodrama starring one of the icons of Asian silent movies, Ruan Ling-yu.
But lest anybody thinks it's all doom and gloom at the festival, Mr Lee points out that there are strong light-hearted genre films as well, such as director Wei Te-sheng's musical 52Hz I Love You, which critics are hailing as Taiwan's answer to La La Land.
"Wei's previous film Seediq Bale (2011) was kind of dark but he's now gone back to making a romantic comedy (similar to his 2008 blockbuster Cape No 7)," shares Mr Lee. "(Likewise as programmers) we always try to find a diverse range of films and give it a platform to be watched on the big screen because besides good films, the festival also aims to promote Chinese culture."
- The 5th Singapore Chinese Film Festival runs from April 28 to May 7. For full line-up, venue information and ticketing details, visit scff.sg