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Still from 'The Road to Mandalay' | Courtesy of the producers and the SGIFF
Still from 'The Road to Mandalay' | Courtesy of the producers and the SGIFF
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A Guide To The Singapore International Film Fest

Picture of Prianka Ghosh
Updated: 22 November 2016
The 27th annual Singapore International Film Festival kicks off this week and runs until December 4th, 2016. One of Singapore’s premier events on the arts calendar, many hours of planning have gone into making this year’s festival the most exciting yet. In previous years, the festival has drawn an annual attendance of up to 12,000 attendees, featuring over 100 films from all over the world. Besides screenings, the festival also includes masterclasses and panels held by industry heavyweights.

As part of its programming, the festival will see two films make their Asian debut. The festival kicks off with Interchange, a fantasy noir thriller by one of Malaysia’s most dedicated filmmakers, Dain Iskandar Said. The film, an Indonesian-Malaysian collaboration, was well received at the Locarno International Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. Inspired by photographs by Carl Lumholtz – the Norwegian explorer who traveled through central Borneo for four years from 1913 to 1917 – the film delves into Borneo’s folklore and how the country deals with impending modernization. The film’s protagonist is caught up in the dark underworld of Borneo’s ritual murders when he unknowingly strikes up a friendship with his dangerous neighbor.

Belian (Nicholas Saputra) and Iva (Prisia Nasution) in Interchange. Photo Courtesy of Danny Lim © Apparat 2016

Belian (Nicholas Saputra) and Iva (Prisia Nasution) in Interchange | © Apparat 2016, courtesy of Danny Lim


The second highly anticipated film that will be making its Asian debut is The Road to Mandalay, directed by Myanmar-born, Taiwanese-raised director Midi Z. The film was warmly received at its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival earlier this year, taking the highly coveted Fedeora Award for Best Film. The movie follows the plight of two illegal immigrants who flee Myanmar in favor of Thailand, hopeful that this will give them a chance at a better future. The film deals with themes of exploitative conditions and the havoc wrought by civil war on everyday civilians.

Courtesy of The Road to Mandalay and the Singapore International Film Festival

Still from The Road to Mandalay | Courtesy of SGIFF

As part of the festival, organizers have also brought in film luminaries to run masterclasses with aspiring filmmakers and anyone curious to learn more about the industry. Join American director Darren Aronofsky – whose films include Requiem for a Dream (2000), The Wrestler (2008), and Black Swan (2010) among others – as he talks about his path to becoming one of the most influential directors in Hollywood. Another masterclass will be run by Japanese director Naomi Kawase, who will be reflecting on how she sees her work and how she became one of Japan’s most influential filmmakers. One of the best known Japanese directors out there, her success is the result of making controversial films that confront important societal issues, including modern Japanese society and dysfunctional gender roles and family structures.

Images of Darren Aronofsky and Naomi Kawasi courtesy of SGIFF

Darren Aronofsky and Naomi Kawase | Courtesy of SGIFF

Finally, another initiative that is worth your time is the Singapore Panorama series. For the better part of the past decade, this has been one of the most popular segments of the festival. Focusing exclusively on Singaporean filmmakers, Singapore Panorama strives to show viewers the latest and most exciting films to come from the Little Red Dot. This year’s program includes Min-Wei Ting’s I’m Coming Up – a trippy 90-minute film, shot in one single take and accompanied by live music by BALBALAB – which aims to show what it’s like inside Singapore’s public housing flats.

I'm Coming Up screenshot Courtesy of 27th SGIFF

Still from I’m Coming Up | Courtesy of SGIFF

The Singapore International Film Festival runs from November 23rd to December 4th, 2016 at various venues around the Civic District.