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Voices of asia and beyond
EXPECT "strong women voices" at the upcoming Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), said its executive director Yuni Hadi at a press conference where the event's full programme was announced earlier this week.
Ms Hadi was commenting on a slate of movies that feature female protagonists and are made by women - or in some cases both, like the festival's opening film Angels Wear White, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, and Oh Lucy!.
Angels Wear White is directed by mainland Chinese filmmaker-producer Vivian Qu and revolves around three girls who find themselves entangled in a web of male-dominated bureaucracy, while Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is made by one of Indonesia's most promising female directors, Mouly Surya, and is about a young widow who goes in search of justice after she is robbed and raped.
Oh Lucy!'s writer-director Atsuko Hirayanagi is a graduate of the Singapore-based NYU Tisch School of the Arts Asia and her debut feature is based on her 2014 short film of the same name which premiered at Cannes Critics Week. The light-hearted road movie, which centres on a Japanese middle-aged woman heading to America to track down her crush, also stars Hollywood heart-throb Josh Hartnett who will be attending this year's festival.
Other women-centric works in the line-up include The White Girl, co-directed by Wong Kar Wai's regular collaborator and cinematographer Christopher Doyle, and short films by American indie writer-producer-actor-director Ana Lily Amirpour.
Incidentally, this year's SGIFF is also helmed by two women: Ms Hadi and Pimpaka Towira, who has stepped in as programme director following the departure of ex-festival director Zhang Wenjie.
A hundred and twelve films from 42 countries - including 18 world and six Asian premieres - will be presented alongside a host of public programmes in the 28th edition over the course of 11 days.
Talents of tomorrow
In line with this year's theme "The Future Is", the festival's Silver Screen Awards will not only pay tribute to veterans but also spotlight talents of tomorrow.
To that end, a South-east Asian Producer's Network has been introduced as well. The inaugural edition will gather 11 regional commissioners and producers, including Singapore's Fran Borgia, Indonesia's Surya, and representatives from cable networks HBO Asia and Astro Shaw, to discuss the growing trend of co-productions.
"Our movie-going culture has entered a new stage: filmmakers and producers are producing great content that are played across multiple screens from cinemas to television to online platforms, in search of that space that will allow our stories from Asia to shine and find its audience," noted Ms Hadi. "It is an important time for us to reflect how and where the stories from our region can be told, and the South-east Asian Producer's Network creates that conversation and challenges the industry to think out of the box."
Also new to this year's SGIFF is a late-night section that most festivals typically devote to cult films. Dubbed "Midnight Mayhem", the four titles picked runs the gamut from action (Cambodia's Jailbreak) and horror (USA's It Comes at Night and Mayhem) to the unclassifiable (the Philippines' Salvage: Malay Wild).
SGIFF will also continue its tradition of championing films from the region. "The demand for quality content has never been greater today: in the last one year, we have witnessed bold experimentation from film auteurs to showcase diversity in storylines, genres and styles, as they push the envelope in filmmaking," stated Ms Towira. "Staying true to our role as a vital focal point to uncover these gems and boundary-pushing creativity, this year's line-up provides an insight into the talent that permeates the region and showcases the promise of the industry here in Asia."
Titles like Dragonfly Eyes by Chinese filmmaker Xu Bing, The Great Buddha+ by Taiwanese director Huang Hsin-Yao, and I Want to Go Home by Singaporean director Wesley Leon Aroozoo showcase both unconventional storytelling and the diversity of Asian cinema.
Dragonfly Eyes is a melodrama edited down from 10,000 hours of surveillance videos; The Great Buddha+ mixes black-and-white cinematography with colour footage from a car's dashboard camera, while I Want to Go Home is a touching documentary that follows the journey of a man determined to reunite with his wife whom he lost to the Great East Japan earthquake of 2011.
Tribute to two veterans
SGIFF will also pay tribute to two Asian cinema veterans - Japanese actor Koji Yakusho will receive the Cinema Legend Award, and Indonesian filmmaker Garin Nugroho will take home the Honorary Award - for their contributions to the big screen.
Best known for his sensitive portrayals of the everyday man, the former rose to stardom with his breakout role of feudal lord Oda Nobunaga in the NHK drama, Tokugawa Ieyasu in the 1980s, and has appeared in over 60 films including Shall We Dance? (1996), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Babel (2006) and 13 Assassins (2010). His latest thriller The Third Murder was an official selection in competition at the 2017 Venice International Film Festival, and Yakusho also has a cameo in Oh Lucy!.
One of South-east Asia's most important filmmakers, Nugroho captures Javanese culture sharply through the camera and his natural filmmaking flair was recognised from the beginning when his debut fiction feature Love in a Slice of Bread (1991) clinched the Best Film Award at the Indonesian Film Festival that year.
His latest black-and-white silent movie Setan Jawa (2017) impressively combines the performances by a traditional Javanese gamelan ensemble with a modern symphony orchestra in his expression of the complexities of Indonesia.
Both Yakusho and Nugroho will conduct their own masterclasses at the festival.
- The 28th SGIFF runs from Nov 23 to Dec 3, 2017 and is an event of the Singapore Media Festival, hosted by Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA). Tickets on sale now from Sistic. For more information and full line-up, please visit www.sgiff.com