The Singapore International Film Festival returns this April for its 23rd edition, headlined by guests such as acclaimed Australian director Bruce Beresford and his film Mao's Last Dancer.
Running from 15 to 24 April, the annual festival features more than 200 titles this year, including both features and shorts, to be screened at three main venues: Shaw Lido Cineplex, Sinema Old School and The Arts House.
This year, the festival team is much changed from 2009, after first-time festival directors Yuni Hadi and Zhang Wenjie, as well as festival board member Jasmine Ng, jointly announced their resignation last July.
The previous festival director, Philip Cheah, had held that title for 21 years before stepping down.
Mao's Last Dancer
This year's festival director is poet, literary critic and academic Kirpal Singh, while the one constant on the festival team has been its founder and chair Geoff Malone.
Commenting on this year’s programme, Malone says, “This year’s festival has a strong niche program focusing on films that reflect optimism, hope and confidence in the future, as seen in the opening and closing films. It is a reflection of, and reference to, the current mood in Singapore and the world at large today, compared to that of last year where there was a perceptive sense of pessimism and fear of the unknown in the global economy.”
When asked if the festival team found it challenging to put everything together in such a short period of time, following a period of transition, Malone quipped, “It’s business as usual”.
“There are always challenges where change is concerned, but the challenges also equal opportunities,” added Singh. “We have an excellent team this year so when the time comes for the audience to cast the vote, let us know how we’ve done then.”
Despite the behind-the-scenes upheaval, the festival has managed to put together its usual eclectic programme, with a focus on films from Asia and Singapore, as well as a diverse range of titles from around the world.
Mao's Last Dancer is the opening film, with Beresford and his lead actor, China-born dancer Chi Cao, expected to grace the festival. The film is a biopic based on the 2003 autobiography of Li Cunxin, who caused an international incident when he fell in love with an American dancer in 1979 and was subsequently forced to defect.
The closing film is Dear Doctor from Japanese director Miwa Nishikawa, and is about a young medical intern assigned to work in a remote village, where he quickly starts to learn things from the town doctor that he had never learnt in medical school. When a secret emerges about the town doctor, the villagers must come to grips with this new knowledge.
The programme also includes new categories such as the NY Avant Cinema Series, which features a series of experimental short films from New York filmmakers, and Women in Film, which showcases the work of women in the film industry – whether as directors, producers, or actors – as well as films that have the concerns of women as their focus. The last new category is Dance: Movement in Film, which marks the Festival’s first programme focused on dance.
While the Singapore Film Awards, which debuted last year, has been discontinued this year, the festival will proceed with its traditional Silver Screen Awards, comprising the Asian Feature Film Competition and Singapore Short Film Competition.
Tickets for the festival will be available from 25 March through Sistic at $10 each (not including $1 Sistic booking fee). Festival buffs who buy 20 tickets or more in a single receipt will be able to enjoy a 15% discount.
Official website: https://www.filmfest.org.sg