Our favourite film festival in Singapore is undoubtedly the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) and after its triumphant return last year, we are incredibly excited for this year’s 26th edition! With more than 140 different films (features and shorts) available for your enjoyment, I wouldn’t even know where to start! However, we are here to your rescue with a list of films that WE are going to watch and perhaps you’ll enjoy it as well. Without further ado, let us begin!
1.The Laundryman (27 Nov, Fri | 7.45pm | MBS | Filmmaker & Cast in Attendance)
This year’s breakout Taiwanese film is definitely 我的少女时代 which though is still playing in cinemas has been breaking hearts, wringing tears on its way to incredible box office results! However, it’s a little too cliche, draggy and unnecessarily long for us, which makes us excited to check out The Laundryman. Directed by Lee Chung, The Laundryman is his first feature film. If films are a medium of storytelling then what a story this promises to be.
“A laundry shop isn’t quite what it seems. Beneath its veneer, the beautiful proprietor A-Gu manages a group of contract killers for hire…But in The Laundryman, death isn’t so simple. While bodies are “washed away,” restless spirits remain in this world with their unresolved tensions. The film centres around A-Gu’s favourite hitman, codenamed “No.1 Greenfield Lane,” who is plagued by the irritating and persistent spirits of his victims…this comically gets out of hand and very soon, a whole entourage of spirits is behind his back.”
This is definitely a must-watch especially for those who enjoy a variety of different genres, which this promises to be as we watch this wonderful story come to life.
2. In The Room (1 Dec, Tue | 7.45pm | MBS | Filmmaker & Cast in Attendance)
In The Room is local film auteur Eric Khoo’s latest feature as well as his first erotica. Set in a hotel room, the room becomes the vehicle that transposes a sprawling tapestry of stories as we progress through the history of Singapore from the Japanese occupation of Singapore till now.
“In The Room contains all the hallmarks of Eric Khoo’s oeuvre – a distilled nod towards his love for horror, an empathetic approach towards cruelty and the constant search for the transitory moments of human tenderness.” Beyond looking forward to a variety of different stories involving a wide range of different characters is of course the Pan – Asian cast. Fans of Choi Woo Sik, of Rooftop Prince and Hogu’s Love fame will be able to enjoy the dramatic departure from his too-nice persona in this highly anticipated erotica-drama.
We also managed to do an interview with Eric Khoo as he talks about In The Room, the filming process and numerous other fascinating behind-the-scenes stories which he was more than happy to share! (Enjoy below)
3. The Man Who Knew Infinity (4 Dec, Fri | 7.45pm | MBS | Filmmaker & Cast in Attendance)
There are often no more interesting stories than the stories in real life and this has been proven time and time again with numerous biographical films (including Imitation Game, The King’s Speech, A Beautiful Mind among many others). This inspiration for this film comes from a similar mould in which Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire) plays a self-taught mathematical genius who is taken under the wing of G.H. Hardy, an esteemed Cambridge professor. While the topic may be one that has become quite commonplace in recent years, I am still looking forward to this and I hope that perhaps Matthew Brown (director) will be able to tell a story in a much different way.
4. A Copy of My Mind (27 Nov, Fri | 9.30pm | Shaw Lido)
A Korean and Indonesian collaboration, this is definitely not your typical romance story. A quirky love story that begins typically with a facial therapist , Sari, who finds comfort in her collection of pirated DVDs, subsequently finds love with Alek, a man who’s work is subtitling pirated DVDs. What appears to be a match made in heaven takes a turn for the dramatic when during a facial appointment in a prison, unwittingly steals a DVD that contains footage showing political corruption. Thus begins the chase. To be honest, the two genres, romance and political activist doesn’t exactly seem totally compatible but because I love the 2 genres (albeit separately), I have to see if A Copy of My Mind is able to take the best of both worlds.
5. Cemetery of Splendour (2 Dec, Wed | 9.30pm | Shaw Lido)
Directed by one of film’s most unique talents, Apichatpong Weerasthakul is well known as a significant modern talent especially after his 2010 film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives brought home the Palme d’Or. While his films are often lauded for its experimental and unqiue use of film to tell a story, not everyone is able to enjoy or appreciate it. However, this critically acclaimed oeuvre promises to be his most accessible film to date yet retains its dreamy foray. Telling the story of a middle aged volunteer tending to a mysterious group of soldiers in deep slumber, she befriends one of the soldiers who drifts in and out of sleep while recalling mystic tales. What transpires is a hypnotic, yet bittersweet and playful tale of Thailand’s violent past, juxtaposed against quirky, almost absurd everyday activities. What I love about film festivals is its liberty in allowing films (no matter how out there they are) to be screened thus allowing us to not only break out of the monotony of Hollywood films but also to enjoy film as an incredible medium for storytelling!
6. Right Now, Wrong Then (5 Dec, Sat | 9.30pm | Shaw Lido)
For lovers of everything that is Korean culture (from KDramas and movies to KPOP), this could be the one for you. Directed by Hong Sang Soo, his 17th feature film is a gentle treatise which won him the Best Director Award at the Locarno Film Festival. Ironically, it is Korea which is one of the biggest proponents of unrealistic love with its unbelievably beautiful people and melodramatic scenes, yet this promises to be something else entirely. All fantasy is dispelled in this film as it charmingly opens us up to the mundane, awkward and truthful moments of a potential romance and friendship by tracing an encounter between a filmmaker and a painter twice – a same scenario but with 2 different outcomes. Romance and friendship as it is, who can resist?
7. The Lobster (29 Nov, Sun | 2.00pm | Shaw Lido)
The Lobster features some pretty well-known names such as Colin Farrell and John C. Reily but this incredibly quirky/weird story of love, loneliness and animals has been met with critical acclaim and numerous nominations for awards. Abandoned by his wife, David checks into The Hotel where singles have a find a compatible partner within 45 days or be turned into animals. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect setup for a hilarious comedy (though with a serious underlying message), then I’m not sure what you find funny. It’s definitely going to be a weird watch but damn if I’m not looking forward to it, hopefully they all turn to lobsters!
8. The Thin Yellow Line (28 Nov, Sat | 11.00am | National Museum of Singapore)
As part of SGIFF’s ‘Spotlight on Mexican Cinema,’ this is my choice among the various Mexican films. While you may not hear much about Mexican culture in general, Mexican film is definitely at the forefront of modern cinema. Vastly different from neighbouring Hollywood and even independent European, American or Asian films, there’s a distinct feel to Mexican films in both its subject as well as cinematography. Enjoy your foray into Mexican cinema in The Thin Yellow Line which tells the story of a motley crew of characters who must learn to put away their differences to finish up a line-painting job on a 217km highway in just 15 days. It’s the magic of both film as well as director and cast where a seemingly mundane task can be transformed into a compelling act to watch (well hopefully)!
9. A Young Patriot (29 Nov, Sun | 7.00pm | The Arts House)
As part of SGIFF’s focus on Chinese Independent Documentary, A Young Patriot is a can’t miss! China is the most populous country in the world and in such a rapidly changing country, the diversity of characters and stories is definitely in the endless range. As such, independent documentaries provides us, whether we are Chinese or not, with an unfiltered look at the numerous stories hidden underneath the Chinese veneer. This is a coming-of-age film, though unlike many Western bildungsroman films, this isn’t about love but rather a patriot’s youthful ideology that crumbles as a transition to adulthood brings forth complex realisations.
10. The President (5 Dec, Sat | 2.00pm | National Museum of Singapore)
As part of its tribute to Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the acclaimed Iranian director who was (believe it or not) completely self taught , SGIFF will be screening one of his more recent films, The President. This is a brilliant exploration of a former tyrant who must now experience the oppressiveness of his regime after a coup d’etat where he is forced to live among the masses discreetly. To be honest, this is a simple thought experiment or hypothetical situation though one that we really never think of simply because we know that in real life, dictators will never have such an opportunity. Not unlike the motto of The Game of Thrones, for dictators, You Win or You Die, there is no in between. This will definitely make for an interesting watch and beyond the subject matter itself, I’m excited as this will be my first Mohsen film!
There are of course tons of other different films (especially short films) which I unfortunately had to leave out but are still worth watching! For more information as well as ticket sales, visit SGIFF NOW! Enjoy the films and share with us your favourites!