After 10 packed days of film screenings, masterclasses and talks at the 28th Singapore International Film Festival, the annual Silver Screen Awards took place at Marina Bay Sands’ Grand Theatre, a penultimate highlight of the festival before its last day of activities.
Inaugurated in 1991, the Silver Screen Awards aims to celebrate new and emerging talents in the Asian Feature Film and Southeast Asian Short Film competition sections. More than 14 awards were dished out over the three-hour long ceremony, which opened with a rousing performance by Singaporean theatre actress Selena Tan as a montage of the festival’s highlights played on screen.
The Best Singapore Short Film, which was the first award within the Southeast Asian Short Film Awards Category, went to artist Tan Wei Kiong’s Between Us Two, a delicate and poignant animated short that portrays a gay son’s conversation with his dead mother.
As Tan, who is currently based in San Francisco, was unable to attend the ceremony, he accepted his win through a recorded video message that was played across the screen. “I couldn’t be more grateful to be receiving this prize from the festival that I love and respect so much,” he said.
Up next was the Youth Jury Prize, awarded by participants from this year’s Young Jury and Critics Programme. The 13-men Youth Jury had spent hours in the week earlier heatedly debating which film was the most deserving of their vote — eventually deciding on Sorayos Prapapan’s political satire Death of the Sound Man. Prapapan was ecstatic to receive the award, pumping a fist in jubilation when his name was announced before heading on stage.
The Thai director ended up one of two double winners of the entire night — he also swept the Best Director award in the same category. Clearly, the jury panel comprising Tokyo International Film Festival dean Kenji Ishizaka, Singaporean filmmaker K. Rajagopal and Indonesian actress Marsha Timothy, shared a similar eye with the Youth Jury in identifying Prapapan’s nuanced take on social issues in Thailand through the lens of neglected sound recordists. Special mention went to The Malediction by Makbul Mubarak, a bold and daring film which confronts Indonesia’s religion-based patriarchal institution with humour and irony.
Last but not least, the most anticipated award in this category was the Best Southeast Asian Short Film. This was awarded to Jodilerks Dela Cruz, Employee of the Month by Filipino filmmaker Carlo Francisco Manatad, a deliciously offbeat dark comedy touching on the larger issues of crime, lawlessness and violence in the Philippines through a gas station attendant’s last day on the job. Manatad’s win yielded especially resounding cheers and applause from the Youth Jury members, as the film had fought a close battle with Death of the Sound Man during the Youth Jury voting process.
The night’s top honour went to Iranian filmmaker Ali Asgari’s Disappearance, which edged out seven other nominees to take home the title of Best Film in the Asian Feature Film competition. Asgari’s well-crafted debut, which takes place in the span of one night, follows two students who run from hospital to hospital seeking for medical aid while hiding a secret of their own.
Besides celebrating new up-and-coming filmmakers in Asia, the Silver Screen Awards also recognised acclaimed veterans who have made immense contributions to cinema in the region. The Honorary Award, the festival’s highest honour, was bestowed upon Indonesia filmmaker Garin Nugroho, who is widely regarded as the pioneer of the new generation of Indonesian filmmakers in the 1990s. The Cinema Legend Award was awarded to leading Japanese actor Koji Yakusho, who has starred in over 60 films since the late 1970s and made a special appearance in Atsuko Hirayangai’s Oh Lucy!, which was screened in SGIFF’s Special Presentation section this year.
The film community also paid homage to two departed instrumental figures. Lesley Ho, who was one of the founding members of SGIFF and resigned as the festival’s co-director in 2007, passed away from cancer in 2017. Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) founding member Kim Ji-seok, who previously served as a member of the SGIFF International Advisory Board, also passed this year from a heart attack. Ho’s three surviving children and BIFF Asian cinema programmer Kim Young-woo went on stage to accept plagues in their memory.