If there is one common language that everyone in the 27-member state European Union understands, it is the language of film. And that is exactly what this year’s edition of the European Union Film Festival, jointly organized by the Delegation of the European Union to Singapore (EU) and the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU, aims to achieve by presenting the many facets of Europe through celluloid.
This year's selection features an eclectic mix of 28 films, some of which have finally made their way here and some which are bound to surprise many viewers. Fare from established European directors such as this year's Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film, Austrian auteur Michael Haneke (‘Armour’), as well as Olivier Assayas from France (‘Something in the Air’), Italian Academy Award winner Gabriele Salvatores and upcoming talent like Polish director Jan Komasa (‘Suicide Room’) and Norway's Morten Tyldum (‘Headhunters’) will be screened during this 11-day celebration of Europe's finest cinema.
The 23rd EUFF will be special for a number of reasons – it marks the first time soon-to-be EU member Croatia will be participating, and also marks the first cinematic contributions of Norway, Turkey and Ukraine.
Fans of local Mandarin television will even recognise a familiar face in ‘Mister John’, where Mediacorp Ah Jie Zoe Tay stars opposite Irish actor Aiden Gillen in the art-house drama. The screening, however, will be a private by-invitation-only gala; the general public will have to wait until later this year for its commercial cinematic release.
Just like previous years, each feature film screening will be preceded by a student film. This year, EUFF will be partnering with local film school Chapman University Singapore. “Our students’ short films at this year’s EUFF reflect a strong cross-cultural collaboration and showcase local as well as international stories,” says Nana Greenwald, university associate dean and director. The school will be putting out 15 films from current students and alumni.
Here are five films on this year's programme that will get any dedicated cinephile's blood pumping.
Mister John (Ireland)
When: 15 May, 9pm
The EUFF's opening gala will allow an exclusive peek at this Irish-Singapore co-production, starring Aidan Gillen and our very Zoe Tay for very important people and guests. The rest of us will have to wait until it opens later this year. Lucky them.
More Than Honey (Switzerland)
When: 16 May, 7pm
This documentary from Switzerland investigates the phenomenon of the ‘bee-pocalypse’; the vanishing of billions of bees over the past five years for reasons unknown. A look into the fascinating world of bees and their relationship with humans, ‘More Than Honey’ also clearly illustrates the potentially horrible effects their disappearance will have for humankind and nature.
Something in the Air (France)
When: 17 May, 7pm
Directed by Olivier Assayas, this semi-autobiographical story tracks the artistic awakening of a young man during a period of revolution and political turbulence following the events and civil unrest of May 1968 in France. The film competed for the Golden Lion at the prestigious 69th Venice International Film Festival and won the Osella for Best Screenplay there as well.
When: 22 May, 9.30pm
Winner of multiple awards – the Cannes Film Festival, the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes and of course, an Oscar – Amour is a story about Georges and Anne, two retired music teachers. When Anne is stricken with a stroke, Georges has to care for her. ‘Amour’ features Michael Haneke's trademark bleak tone but his take on everything about love, life and death is also devastatingly humane and heartfelt at the same time.
The Deep Blue Sea (UK)
When: 24 May, 7pm
Not to be confused with the 1999 shark film where Samuel L. Jackson dies (no, I'm not sorry for spoiling this), ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ is a film that I've personally been yearning to see for a while now. Rachel Weisz plays Hester Collyer, the neglected wife of a judge who engages in a passionate and erotic affair with a dashing Royal Air Force pilot played by Tom Hiddleston. The movie investigates the dilemma of choosing between passion and stability and also features a critically acclaimed performance by lead actress Rachel Weisz, nominated for Best Actress at the Golden Globes and won at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
Suicide Room (Poland)
When: 23 May, 7pm
A rather depressing story about a teenage boy who is both mocked in school and online after a series of humiliating dares and events. The bullying and the heavy expectations of his unfeeling parents cause him to retreat online and into the solace of a suicidal girl through the Internet. He finds comfort in the virtual community and starts losing his grip of reality. This film's unique feature is that it's a partly animated ‘Euro-manga’ — the film shifts to the virtual 3D graphics of the world the lead character is in when he escapes there.
23rd European Union Film Festival | Date: 15-26 May | Venue: Shaw Theatres Lido, 5 & 6/F Shaw House, 350 Orchard Rd. | Tickets: $11