After a two-year hiatus, months of planning, and finally 11 days packed with films and events, the 25th Singapore International Film Festival has come to a close. And what a Festival it was!
This year’s Festival reeled in more than 10,000 audiences to the screenings of our 147 films. From all screenings, a total of 23 were sold out! Out of those 23 films, two are programmes for local short films and seven are local feature films, including Ms J Contemplates Her Choice from Jason Lai, the documentary Little People, Big Dreams from Mak CK, and Sam Loh’s Lang Tong. Tickets to the two screenings of Ken Kwek’s Festival-opening Unlucky Plaza were also sold out in record time.
Foreign films with star power, like Clouds of Sils Maria (starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz), two screenings of Lilting (starring Cheng Pei Pei and Ben Whishaw), and John Woo’s The Crossing (starring Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tong Dawei), were all, as predicted, sold out. A couple of highly acclaimed films, Golden Globe nominee Leviathan and Palme d’Or-winning Winter Sleep, were also sold out, as were Microphone, from Filmmaker-in-Focus Ahmad Abdalla, and Revivre, from the father of modern Korean cinema, Im Kwon-taek.
Speaking of stars, those that turned up for the Festival include John Woo, Tong Dawei and Zhang Ziyi, all of whom were in attendance for a Special Presentation of their latest film The Crossing; Juliette Binoche for Clouds of Sils Maria; and Cheng Pei Pei for Lilting. Taiwanese actor Chen Bolin attended the Silver Screen Awards, while respected German actress Nastassja Kinski took part in our series of Masterclasses, conducting one on Women in Film. Woo and Binoche also conducted masterclasses (both of which were full house), as did Filmmaker-in-Focus Abdalla and Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai.
More than 100 directors, producers, actors and actresses from all over also attended the screenings of their films here at the Festival; for the first time in the Festival’s history, all filmmakers behind the Silver Screen Award-nominated films were in attendance. They all contributed to a vibrant and thrilling 11 days, particularly through meaningful post-screening discussions.
The Silver Screen Awards took place on Saturday, 13 December, the penultimate day of the Festival. The Best Film award went to Court, the debut feature of filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane that centres around the justice system in India. The jury, headed by Wang Xiaoshuai, cited that: “This glittering gem dazzles with its simplicity, elegance and breathtaking naturalism. Every facet of this film shines, from the humanity of its screenplay, to the originality of its structure, to the assuredness of its direction. A brilliant achievement.” Tamhane also brought home the Best Director award, adding to a growing list of awards that includes the Lion of the Future for Best Debut trophy from this year’s Venice International Film Festival.
Indonesian actress Sekar Sari won the Best Performance award for her title role in Eddie Cahyono’s Siti, while South Korean film Alive, the second feature from director Park Jung-bum, was awarded the Special Mention. The jury citation for Alive read: “Passion and conviction are very much alive in actor-director Park Jung-bum’s ode to human stoicism. Despite a run time of almost three hours, this film carries us along with its craft and dedication.”
Starting this year, the Silver Screen Awards’ short film category was expanded to Southeast Asian Short Film, as opposed to just Singapore. The Best Southeast Asian Short Film award went to Dahdi (Granny), from Singaporean filmmaker Kirsten Tan. The jury citation read: “Realistic performance and mature direction from the director. Sensitive and poignant, creating a inematic experience.”
Meanwhile, Shijie Tan’s Not Working Today won the Best Singapore Short Film, and Aditya Ahmad’s On Stopping the Rain won Best Director, having also won the Generation Kplus Special Mention at the Berlin International Film Festival. Vanishing Horizon of the Sea, from Thailand’s Chulayarnnon Siriphol, won the Special Mention. The short film was described by the jury as: “Conceptually beautiful with the use of different mediums to explore the concept of memory. VHS snow has never looked so romantic or beautiful. Vivid visuals induce the imagination of the audience. Haunting reminder of the past.”
This year’s Festival also introduced two brand new programmes: the Southeast Asian Film Lab, a six-day writing workshop aimed at emerging directors and screenwriters from Southeast Asia; as well as the aforementioned Youth Jury Programme, which seeks to nurture a new generation of critical writers on cinema from the region and culminated in six issues of coverage. Both programmes also had a part during the Silver Screen Awards: the Film Lab awarded its Most Promising Project prize to Bradley Liew, for his screenplay-in-progress Awit Ng Puntod, while the Youth Jury awarded its inaugural Youth Jury Prize to Giancarlo Abrahan for his short film May Dinadala. The Youth Jury also covered the event extensively; check out their article for more details on the event.
The Festival closed on Sunday, 14 December with the screening of In the Absence of the Sun, this year’s Closing Film. Director Lucky Kuswandi was in attendance at Marina Bay Sands; he was joined by producer Sammaria Simanjuntak and cast members Adinia Wirasti, Ina Panggabean, Dayu Wijanto, Dira Sugandi, and Trisa Triandesa on the final red carpet, Sunday evening.
Our Executive Director Yuni Hadi said: “SGIFF this year brought together some of the most exciting names in the new generation of Southeast Asian cinema where new friendships have formed. We’ve had such wonderful feedback about the masterclasses, the Southeast Asian Film Lab and the screenings, allowing us to restart the Festival on a very positive note. Several young filmmakers met their personal film heroes through SGIFF, and this is always a wonderful experience. It has also been very encouraging to have the Southeast Asia film community embrace SGIFF so warmly. The most meaningful part for me is personally meeting all the directors and producers, and welcome them to Singapore.”
From all of us here at the SGIFF Team, this Festival has been a tremendous journey, filled with so many great films, events, masterclasses, partners, and of course, a great audience. It has truly been an amazing experience putting everything together, and what a way to celebrate its 25th anniversary. We couldn’t ask for more! We hope that attending the Festival has transformed you, the same way it has transformed us.
See you next year!