From the invitation alone, which specified a dress code that is ‘all that glitters’, one would already expect the Silver Screen Awards held this year at the delightfully modern Sands Theatre to be something that can be recalled and talked about for years to come.
Indeed, on the 25th anniversary for the birth of the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), things have never gotten grander than before. Boasting a total of 103 films, SGIFF has never been so big or extensive, and covered so much ground in its sparse ten-days time span.
With almost inhuman amounts of effort put in by the surprisingly small skeleton crew and their intrepid team of volunteers, SGIFF manages to be both larger than life and a trim, lean machine-like efficiency that even foreign film festivals with much more resources struggle to imitate.
And naturally, it all culminates in the final arena of competitive film-making: the revered Silver Screen Awards.
It could be noted that even whilst during the opening party, the atmosphere is already a veritable sizzling pool of anxious energy as novice filmmakers with their ambitious debuts lock eyes with the seasoned veterans of the film festival circuits. Pictured within the Awards’ live tweeting and Instagram session by members of the Youth Jury, VIPs such as veteran Hong-Kong actress Cheng Pei Pei and the festival chairman Mike Wiluan, are photographed alongside the lesser known but no less essential members of the festival such as Leong Puiyee, the chief programmer for the short film segments, and Tan Wei Keong, director of Pifuskin an entry within the SEA Short Films Competition.
It would seem that canapés and nervous glances are being shuttled back and forth with almost astoundingly similar frequency as wines are sipped and gins are downed, everyone is truly, deeply apprehensive about the events that are about to unfold for them.
If one word can be used to describe the tension within the Sands Theatre, it would surely be ‘electric’ when Master of Ceremony, the ever charismatic Adrian Pang, finally starts on the prize presentation:
The first of the prizes to be awarded is that of the Most Promising Project from the Southeast Asian Film Lab, won by Bradley Liew of short film Xing and his pitch for a film titled Singing in Graveyards (Awit Ng Puntod) who he promised to develop and complete.
Next up, is the Best Singapore Short Film, won by Not Working Today, the third work of consummate director Shijie Tan, whose apt and subtle social commentary woven into the impeccably constructed narrative earned the critics’ fancy.
Following that, the inaugural Youth Jury Prize is awarded to Giancarlo Abrahan’s May Dinadala, a searing and provocative work that challenges the audience into reflecting on their intimately unique living experiences.
Moving on, Aditya Ahmad is awarded Best Director, for his whimsical blend of youthful girlish naivete and local mythology in the bouncy and rainy On Stopping the Rain, and the Special Mention is awarded to Vanishing Horizon of the Sea by Chulayarnnon Siriphol, a weird and beautiful take on human identities and the idea of self.
Naturally, after that, we have the Best SEA Short Film, which goes to Kirsten Tan for her seminal work in her short film Dahdi, a haunting exploration of the nature of the human condition and loneliness set against the backdrop of the arrival of an unexpected intruder into the stilted life of a solitary old lady.
Veteran actress Cheng Pei Pei then takes the stage to deliver a most touching tribute to the late Sir Run Run Shaw, whose cinematic exploits led to his fortune and subsequent philanthropy.
Following the end of the commemorative video, local singer Jill-Marie Thomas performs three pieces to enthusiastic response to sooth the transition into the presentation of the Honorary Award to Korean film legend, Im Kwon-Taek, whose 102th work, Revivre is screened as part of the SGIFF programme. Director Im then gives his address shortly afterwards.
After this, we move on to the Asian Feature Film Category of the Silver Screen Awards.
Actress Marine Vacth presents the Best Performance Prize to Sekar Sari of Siti fame, while actress Huang Lu and festival chairman Mike Wiluan presents the Best Director Prize to Indian director Chaitanya Tamhane, whose work Court also won the Best Film. Special Mention went to Korean director Park Jung-Bum’s actor, with a special note on its ‘passion and conviction’.
Finally, pending the closing address jointly delivered by Chairman Mike Wiluan and Adrian Pang, the various guests-of-honours and the award winners gather for a group photo-taking, before the Award Ceremony finally ends and the after party begins.