Though the there are fewer Asian films in this year's Singapore International Film Festival, the region's cinema remains in focus in the Silver Screen Awards Asian Feature Film Competition, which includes Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History. It was among the early titles mentioned before the 23rd edition of the fest unveiled its full schedule.
Among the special programs in this year's festival is a Director's Focus on Australian director Bruce Beresford, with three of his films showing: Breaker Morant, Paradise Road and Driving Miss Daisy. That's prompted the Straits Times story, "Film fest losing its edge?":
Gone are the edgy arthouse films of last year's edition. The festival organisers appear to be playing it safe this year with tried-and-tested fare.
The oddball choice that has caught many people's eyes: The 1989 film, Driving Miss Daisy, which stars American actor Morgan Freeman and the late English actress Jessica Tandy.
Long-time festival fan Alvin Wong, 34, who is in the publishing business, says: 'It's strange to see this title in the fest. It would've been better to replace it to cater to those who expect to see newer films."
Festival Director Kirpal Singh has said the fest is aiming for a "broad appeal" that will reach out to the general viewership but still please fans of niche films.
There's a few edgy films in the Asian Feature Film Competition, among them Mundane History, a family drama about a young paralyzed man in a wealthy family and his tentative friendship with his male nurse. It's full of symbolism and commentary on class conflict that might resonate with Singaporean audiences.
Here's the competition line-up:
- 40-ci qapi (The 40th Door), Elcin Musaoglu (Azerbaijan)
- Akasa Kusum (Flowers of the Sky), Prasanna Vithanage (Sri Lanka)
- Dooman River, Zhang Lu (South Korea/France)
- Güneşi Gördüm (I Saw the Sun), Mahsun Kırmızıgül (Turkey) / 2009 / TBA / 101
- Ira Handa Yata (Under the Sun and Moon), Bennett Rathnayake (Sri Lanka)
- Jao Nok Krajok (Mundane History), Anocha Suwichakornpong (Thailand)
- Memories of a Burning Tree, Sherman Ong (Tanzania/Netherlands/Singapore/Malaysia)
- Mukhaputa (The Cover Page), Roopa Iyer (India)
- Sang Pemimpi (The Dreamer), Riri Riza (Indonesia)
- Sanglaan (The Pawnshop), Milo Sogueco (Philippines)
- Sex Volunteer, Cho Kyeong-Duk (South Korea)
- Yan Lei (Tears), Cheng Wen-Tang (Taiwan)
They will compete for Best Film, Best Director, Best Performance, Best Cinematography and the NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Critics Award. The jury comprises Singaporean filmmaker Cheek Cheah, Straits Times film correspondent John Lui, film expert Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, Filipino filmmaker Nick Deocampo, and Cambodian documentarian Roshane Saidnattar.
I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. That would be the censorship rulings for the festival.
Though Mundane History is rated R21, the most restrictive on Singapore's film-ratings scale, the censors still might not like the bathtub scene, even though it was allowed in Thailand. Another one that is censorship bait just for the title alone is South Korea's Sex Volunteer.
Meri News reports that most titles have passed "while some are still in consideration".
Other regional films of interest include Factory Shorts: Looking at Cambodia's Garment Sector, a documentary by Nico Mesterharm and Mark Hammond, and Saidnattar's L'important c'est de rester vivant (Survive: In the Heart of the Khmer Rouge Madness), in which she returns to Cambodia with her mother and daughter to interview the Khmer Rouge's Khieu Samphan.
There will be another Director's Focus on US actor-director Tom Gilroy, with Mr. Sycamore and Spring Forward. There's also the New York Avant Cinema Series, featuring shorts and features from New York avant-garde filmmakers, a new section, Dance: Movement in Film, and a Women in Film section that includes To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen's Journey, about The World of Suzie Wong actress Nancy Kwan.
The opener is Mao's Last Dancer, a biographical drama directed by Beresford about Li Cunxin, a dancer from China who defected to the US and became a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet. There's around 200 films in all.
The fest runs from April 15 to 24.