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Plenty of firsts for rebooted film fest
THERE is a happy ending after all as the once-troubled Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) returns after a two-year hiatus and announced its full line-up on Tuesday.
The rebooted event also looks set to be a festival of firsts with a fresh-faced team working on it, a heavy spotlight on first-time filmmakers; 25 films premiering here; and various other new components being introduced to this year's edition.
To be held at various venues including Marina Bay Sands, Shaw Lido, National Museum of Singapore, The Arts House and The Projector (formerly Golden Cinema) from Dec 4 to 14, the 25th SIFF will feature a total of 147 features and short films from 50 countries - short-listed from over 1,000 entries.
For the first time in the festival's history, it will open with a Singapore film - Ken Kwek's Unlucky Plaza, a black comedy that won rave reviews when it made its sold-out debut recently at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival.
But the organisers insist they have not gone out to reinvent the wheel just for the sake of doing it and SGIFF has stuck to its tradition of focusing on ground-breaking Asian cinema, as well as discovering new talents from South-east Asia.
"What's different this year is having a brand-new team to look at Asian cinema from a fresh perspective... We've discovered first-time debut features; as well as young filmmakers who have chosen to tell stories about their countries in a very reflective and sincere fashion," explains Wahyuni Hadi, who has worked on past editions in a different capacity but takes on the new role as SGIFF's executive director this year.
The 28 local films in this edition is also SGIFF's most extensive showcase of homegrown works in the festival's history. Ten features and eight shorts will screen under the Singapore Panorama section, which was introduced in 2008 and has since become one of the most highly-anticipated and watched segment of the festival.
Regulars like Han Yew Kwang, Kan Lume and A Nizam Khan will be premiering their new films - Rubbers, a sex comedy starring Golden Horse Best Actress winner Yeo Yann Yann; Singapore Girl, a multi-language romance drama shot in Koh Samui; and Breaking the Ice, a documentary based on local performance artist Jeremy Hiah, respectively.
Singapore Panorama will also feature the debut features of two industry veterans who are known for their short films - Jason Lai with the Kit Chan-starring semi-psychological thriller, Ms J Contemplates Her Choice; and Rick Aw with Standing in Still Water, a poignant social drama.
SGIFF's new chairman Mike Wiluan says the film festival is not just reaching out to cinephiles but it also plays a wider role in the development of Singapore's socioeconomic landscape. That is why SGIFF will be held under the Media Development Authority's (MDA) new Singapore Media Festival banner, which will also include the Asia TV Forum & Market, ScreenSingapore and the Asian Television Awards.
"The Singapore Media Festival (will offer) an enhanced platform for business networking and international collaborations, encompassing the whole value chain from production to distribution," explains MDA's assistant chief executive (industry), Angeline Poh.
A film producer himself and owner of integrated media entertainment and creative services company Infinite Studios, Mr Wiluan hopes SGIFF will become a networking platform for the industry as it "encourages meaningful conversations among filmmakers and becomes not just an avenue of entertainment to filmgoers".
Ms Hadi points out that despite films being readily available at one's fingertips these days - be it on the computer or mobile device - there is nothing like connecting and interacting with like-minded film buffs at SGIFF. "The synergy created during a film festival can never be replaced," she adds.
Tickets from S$12 (general films) to S$25 (opening /closing films) are on sale now from Sistic outlets and online. Concessions and bulk discounts are also available.
Check www.sgiff.com for details and full line-up
SGIFF's must-watch films
Dec 4, 6.45pm, Shaw Lido 1
Sex.Violence.FamilyValues' writer-director Ken Kwek makes his feature debut with Unlucky Plaza, a black comedy about a Filipino single father (played by comedian Epy Quizon) who makes the news in Singapore after he's pushed to the edge.
Dec 4, 9.45pm, Shaw Lido 1
The first of John Woo's star-studded two-part war epic, The Crossing, will make its premiere at SGIFF with some of its cast members - which includes Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Zhiyi and Huang Xiaoming - and the director attending the screening.
The Obs: A Singapore Story
Dec 6, 11am, National Museum of Singapore
The story of Singapore's hardest working and longest-surviving indie band, The Observatory, is told through archival footage and interviews in this contemplative documentary by filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua on what it means to think like an outsider in a society that favours the mainstream.
Dec 7, 4.30pm, Shaw Lido 4
Tsai Ming-liang has always been a favourite with the crowd at SGIFF and his latest film, Stray Dogs, a heartbreaking drama about a modern Taiwanese family grasping at straws for hope, finally makes it here about a year after its domestic release.