If you’re a film enthusiast like me, you’ll probably be in the know about all the International Film Festivals that showcases indie films that are made with a passion, an alternative to the Hollywood blockbusters that hogs our local cinema chains.
The films that are screened at these festivals often tell a more unique narrative and the use of varied cinematographic techniques makes for another sort of gratification, not one achievable by pumping tons of money and product placements.
Founded in 1987 and organised by the Singapore International Film Festival Ltd, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is the biggest and longest-running film event in Singapore that focuses on dynamic programming especially on ground-breaking Asian cinema for Singapore and the region.
As an iconic event in the local arts scene, you can expect to see international film critics and award winning directors, producers and cast in attendance.
Part of the annual Singapore Media Festival, the 27th edition of SGIFF will run from 23 November to 4 December 2016, showcasing a total of 161 feature and short films from 52 countries.
Festival films will be screened at the various venues including, Marina Bay Sands, Capitol Theatre, National Museum of Singapore Gallery Theatre, Shaw Theatres Lido, National Gallery Singapore Auditorium, The Arts House Screening Room, Filmgarde Bugis+ and Objectifs Chapel Gallery.
I’ve scoured through the festival’s film offerings to bring you six films that are definitely worth watching!
1. Interchange (23 Nov, 7.15pm, Marina Bay Sands, 103 Min – English)
The opening film of SGIFF 2016, Dain Iskandar’s Interchange is a noir fantasy thriller set in Malaysia, exploring the shamanistic myths of Southeast Asia.
Told through the life of forensics photographer Adam (Iedil Putra) who is troubled by disturbing visions while recovering from a psychotic breakdown. He isolates himself from work and begins taking voyeuristic photos of his neighbours in the opposite block.
As series of murders occur within the city, detective Man (Shaheizy Sam) enlists the help of Adam who crosses paths with Iva (Prisia Nasution), a mysterious femme fatale whom he previously photographed and discovers her involvement in strange dark Borneo ritual sacrifices.
2. The Pursuit of A Happy Human Life (23 Nov, 7.15pm, Marina Bay Sands, 11 mins – English)
Winner of SGIFF 2015’s Best Singapore Short Film, The Pursuit Of A Happy Human Life is the first short film to be commissioned under this initiative by SGIFF in 2016 and will be shown together with Interchange.
Taking a peek at the intricacies and complexities of adolescent relationships, Gladys Ng cleverly lures the viewer with her gentle observations, capturing a balance between showcasing the youthful exuberance of friendship and struggles with emotions and uncertainties of the future.
3. Mrs K (27 Nov, 3pm, The Capitol Theatre, 60 Mins – Cantonese, Mandarin, English)
Award winning Malaysian director, Ho Yuhang’s new film – Mrs K makes its appearance as a special presentation film, after its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival 2016 with a sold-out reception.
One of the most unique genre of films to emerge from Asia, the film is a celebration of Ho’s love for cinema, crossing between Hollywood and Italian Westerns with universal and endearing motifs, combining them with the attractions of a Wu-Xia universe set in the dark city landscape of Malaysia.
The spotlight is shone on a housewife (Kara Wai) whose ordinary life is shaken up when former enemies reappear from her past. She has to give all that she’s got to protect her husband (Wu Bai) and daughter (Li Xuan Siow).
Catch Wu Bai and Kara Wai at the Singapore premiere on 27 November 2016.
4. Three Sassy Sisters (28 Nov, 9.30pm, Shaw Lido 4, 124 Mins, Bahasa Indonesia, English, Sikka)
Three Sassy Sisters by Nia Dinata is the third special presentation film for SGIFF 2016, with a focus on female empowerment while paying homage to Indonesian musical classic Tiga Dara by Indonesian director, Usmar Ismail.
Dinata explores the alternate dimension of empowered women by reimagining the lead characters from housewives to career-oriented professionals, showing their strengths and individuality as modern women within the confines of traditional family values.
The film features catchy musical numbers and pairs some of Indonesia’s rising stars with cinema and television veterans such as, actor/singer Rio Dewanto; actor and rockstar from band Channel, Reuben Elishama; Indonesian acting heavyweight Ray Sahetapy; and most notably, singing and song writing legend Titiek Puspa.
5. The Road to Mandalay (1 Dec, 3pm, ArtScience Museum, 108 Mins, English, Chinese, Thai, Burmese)
Midi Z’s attempt at revealing the life and living conditions of working class migrants through The Road to Mandalay is applaudable. He manages to reveal the exploitative conditions of migrant workers and the commodification of their lives at the same time showing a deep regard for the humanistic element of his characters.
Viewers are brought along the journey of two illegal Burmese migrants, Liangqing (Wu Ke-Xi) and Guo (Kai Ko), attempting to cross into Thailand illegally to make a better life for themselves, but soon discovers that life may not be better off as imagined.
The film shines the spotlight on the anxiety that plagues the working community of illegal Burmese migrants as they strive to make a living for themselves in a foreign land.
6. A Yellow Bird (1 Dec, 9.30pm, National Museum of Singapore, 110 mins, Tamil, Mandarin, English, Hokkien)
A shortlist as one of this year’s competition films under the Silver Screen Awards category, A Yellow Bird is K Rajagopal’s first feature film which is a co-production between Singapore and France which took three years to film.
Look through the eyes of a Singaporean ex-convict (Sivakumar Palakrishnan) as he’s released and heads home only to find that his family has abandoned him.
Unable to find forgiveness from his mother, he sets off on a search for his family and finds companionship with a Chinese woman (Huang Lu) who shares his isolation as an illegal worker hoping to earn enough for her debt-ridden family back in China.
Audiences can expect to find themselves confronted with questions of morality and the difficult decisions of balancing corruption in order to live. The film also stars acclaimed Bollywood actress Seema Biswas, and emerging Singapore actresses Udaya Soundari, Nithiyia Rao and Indra Chandran.
Watch the Festival Trailer here!
Singapore International Film Festival 2016 (SGIFF): 23 Nov – 4 Dec 2016 | Website | Facebook | Buy your tickets here: Opening Film, Special Presentation Films, All Other Films
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