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SGIFF 2019: Southeast Asian Film Talents Recognised at the 30th Singapore International Film Festival’s Silver Screen Awards

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The 30th Singapore International Film Festival announced the winners of its Silver Screen Awards today, celebrating the best of filmmaking in the region.  This year saw 14 awards being presented at the National Museum of Singapore, with the crowd-favourites Asian Feature Film Competition and Southeast Asian Short Film Competition awarding nine of them.

Scales (Sayidat Al Bahr) by Saudi Arabian filmmaker, Shahad Ameen, emerged as the Best Film under the Asian Feature Film Competition segment, which saw eight other shortlisted feature films in the race for the coveted award. Ameen’s debut feature tells a stunning mythical tale of a young girl who defies her village’s harsh and chauvinistic traditions to prove her worth, putting forth a strong statement about female empowerment through the lens of a modern Saudi woman. The jury found it to be a “very original and strong film from a first-time filmmaker who speaks about patriarchy with the simplicity of a fable.”

The late Filipino actor, Kristoffer King, was conferred the Best Performance award for his role as Dante, a small-time petty crook in Filipino director Raymund Ribay Gutierrez’s film, Verdict. Taking on the role of a pathological abuser, the jury felt that King’s character “could easily lapse into caricature, but his nuanced, outstanding, performance provided insight into the mind of a perpetrator.” King’s participation in Verdict also marked the talented actor’s final role in a feature film.

Israeli-born filmmaker, Oren Gerner, received the accolade as Best Director for his film, Africa, a docu-fictional study of wounded masculinity and the anxiety of ageing. The jury shared that “one of the most difficult challenges for a director is to film the story of his own family.” However, Gerner was “courageous in casting his real-life family members to portray this story that is so close to his own life. Though they are non-actors, they manage to convey a sense of naturalness with subtle emotions. This fine acting speaks to the tremendous talent of the director.”

Passed by Censor by Turkish director, Serhat Karaaslan, which follows the story of a prison guard whose boundary between fiction and reality becomes blurred as he sets off to uncover a domestic conspiracy, was given the Special Mention of the evening for its “engaging screenplay.”

The winners of the Asian Feature Film Competition were decided by a jury panel, headed by award-winning Indian filmmaker, Anurag Kashyap. He co-directed crime thriller and India’s first Netflix Originals series Sacred Games, and was a recipient of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Government of France for his contributions to film. Joining him on the jury are well-versed Malaysian movie producer, Amir Muhammad, veteran Hong Kong filmmaker Pang Ho-cheung, and award-winning Indonesian filmmaker Nia Dinata.

For the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition, I’m Not Your F***ing Stereotype, by Thai filmmaker, Hesome Chemamah, was awarded the Best Southeast Asian Short Film out of the 18 shortlisted titles. The short delves into the life of a Muslim girl from Southern Thailand, who falls prey to racism in school and spirals into an identity crisis. The jury was blown away by the film where “everything felt right and new and like no one had told this director or cinematographer or editor or actors or anyone what they shouldn’t do.”

Burmese filmmaker, Zaw Bo Bo Hein, took home the Best Director accolade for his short, Sick, which illustrates the predicament of a man’s desperate search for money to settle the hefty hospital bills of his friend who is losing the will to live. The jury shared that the film showcased the quality of great directors with its ability to “combine a clear plan with perfect execution and not lose the tone.”

Competing against three other local talents, Singaporean filmmaker, Shoki Lin stood out and clinched the Best Singapore Short Film for his film, Adam. The jury felt that this short on family and identity is an “exceptional film that reveals many deeper layers with an emotional dark rollercoaster through Adam’s journey.” It is also a “local story clearly elevated that will resonate with an international audience.”

California Dreaming (Soben California) by Cambodian director, Sreylin Meas, received the Special Mention. Telling a story of two women from different backgrounds and their encounters at an oceanfront resort, the jury felt that the short is “fluid and lyrical”, “ deceptively simple yet so layered” and “succeeded in creating a special moment between strangers.” It is also this “unique female perspective that makes it so universal.” Narrowing down to its technique, the panel also commended the film for its “excellent cinematography, acting and direction.”

The Southeast Asian Short Film Competition Jury Panel this year was led by award-winning filmmaker Dito Montiel, together with renowned Filipino filmmaker Monster Jimenez and one of Singapore’s pioneer film and television music composers, Joe Ng.

Sweet, Salty (Ngot, Man) by Vietnamese filmmaker, Duong Dieu Linh, received the Youth Jury Prize after the deliberation by 15 jurors of SGIFF’s Youth Jury & Critics Programme, who saw the film as a “bittersweet negotiation of womanhood in 21st-century Vietnam.”

Paying tribute to the master of Japanese cult cinema, veteran Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike was conferred the Honorary Award, which recognises individuals who have made exceptional and enduring contributions to Asian cinema. Having directed over 100 films, he was known for his unique, eclectic and irreverent genre-bending aesthetics that is innovative and uncompromising.

Leading Chinese actress, Yao Chen, was also honoured with the refreshed Cinema Icon Award, for her inspiring achievements as a creative force in film. She received the award from Chairman of SGIFF, Sebastian Tan.

Singaporean director, Tan Siyou, received the Most Promising Project of the Southeast Asian Film Lab for her film, Amoeba, which was commended for its “relevance to contemporary themes prevalent amongst the youth in Singapore” and the “fresh perspective of one’s journey to self-discovery.” Filipino director, Kristin Parreno Barrameda was also awarded the Residency Prize for her film, Bing.Bong.Bang, “which stood out for its ironic voice on the dichotomy of life and death” and her ability to provide a “fresh and unique perspective on otherwise universal themes.”

Lee Sze Wei from Nanyang Technological University was presented with the Youth Critic Award that acknowledges the contributions of young writers to the film landscape.

Executive Director of the SGIFF, Yuni Hadi, said: “The Singapore International Film Festival’s Silver Screen Awards is a testament to the quality of storytelling that is emerging from the region and Asia. In addition, it has a significant role in paving the way for the dedicated film talents and opening up greater opportunities for their growth and sustenance. Being able to continue our support to the local film community through our Best Singapore Short Film Award and Festival commission this year has allowed us to grow alongside the growth of Singapore cinema. Congratulations to all award winners this year, and we look forward to uncover more hidden gems of the Asian cinema in the next 30 years to come!”

SGIFF 2019 runs from 21st November to 1st December 2019. For more information, visit their website here

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