SGIFF Celebrates 30 Years of Southeast Asian Storytelling

Positioning Singapore as the discovery ground of these diverse voices

A champion of Southeast Asian independent cinema, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) announced three commissioned short films anchored on the theme of celebration, by Southeast Asian directors Yeo Siew Hua (Singapore), Mouly Surya (Indonesia) and Anucha Boonyawatana (Thailand) today. This is the first commission series for Southeast Asian filmmakers in the history of SGIFF, which furthers its support to growing the regional film scene.

Exploring the complexity of human connections, Yeo Siew Hua’s short film Incantation (2019) returned to his experimental roots where he explored the age-old rituals of ancient spells, spirits and the idea of resurrection during Hungry Ghost Festival. Mouly Surya’s Something Old, New, Borrowed and Blue (2019) uses wry humour to present a forward-looking take of gender roles in today’s society through the intimate interactions between a mother and a bride-to-be at a traditional wedding procession; while Anucha Boonyawatana’s Not A Time to Celebrate (2019) provides a light-hearted and cheeky take to both the rewards and harsh reality of filmmaking while offering a salute to the craft.

The three filmmakers are also no strangers to the Festival. Yeo Siew Hua premiered his award-winning A Land Imagined, which became the first Singaporean film to win Best Film at the Festival’s Silver Screen Awards, under the Asian Feature Film Competition; Mouly Surya presented her Cannes title Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts; while Anucha Boonyawatana was conferred the Best Director at the Silver Screen Award for Malila: The Farewell Flower.

The Festival will also spotlight Southeast Asia cinema in its Focus series titled Stories We Tell: Myth, Dreamscape and Memory in Southeast Asian Cinema, comprising four Southeast Asian films that reflect the recurring theme of imaginative fantasies, dreamlike impressions, and folkloric memories in its storytelling.

Mysterious Object at Noon (2000) by Thai award-winning filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Lucky 7 (2008) directed by seven Singapore filmmakers Sun Koh, Rajagopal, Boo Junfeng, Brian Gothong Tan, Chew Tze Chuan, Ho Tzu Nyen, and Tania Sng stand out with their use of the exquisite corpse, a filmmaking technique where a collection of words or images is assembled by each contributor who is unaware of the full extent of the preceding part. The black and white debut feature of Weerasethakul, Mysterious Object at Noon (2000), weaves a tapestry of subjective stories to collectively tell the tale of Thailand, while Lucky 7 (2008) takes viewers through a kaleidoscope of fragmented stories that reveal a deeper anxiety towards creativity, fantasy, and repression that segue across genres such as social drama, musical and thriller.

Acclaimed Filipino director, Raya Martin’s debut film A Short Film About the Indio Nacional (2005) reshapes the history of the Philippines based on his subjective meditation on national myth, colonial power and revolution as it unfolds into a faux silent movie. At a time where propaganda films seek to erase the cruel history of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh’s The Missing Picture (2013) recounts the indelible mental pictures of what he saw during the event to remind people of the atrocities that happened in his country. Each film contributes to an exploration of a collective consciousness – or perhaps subconscious – that pervades Southeast Asian cinema and turning it into a dreamscape.

The 30th SGIFF will run from 21 November to 1 December 2019. Tickets can be bought here.