The 30th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) culminated on Sunday (1st Dec) after two weeks of film screenings and off-screen programmes that celebrated and showcased the best of independent cinema. The Festival brought together a record attendance of more than 110,000 festival-goers to engage with filmmakers from Singapore and the region in film screenings, panels, talks, exhibitions and masterclasses.
This year, the SGIFF presented a dynamic line-up of over 90 films by auteurs from 40 countries that took the pulse of Asian and international cinema, of which includes 35 sold-out screenings, surpassing its past record in 2017. There was also strong support for works by homegrown filmmakers, with the Festival’s opening film, Wet Season by Anthony Chen, being the first film sold out in the lineup, and all titles under the Singapore Panorama snatched up by the audience.
The much-anticipated Audience Choice Award was awarded to Unteachable by Singaporean filmmaker, Yong Shuling, marking the first time a local film has received this Award. The debut feature documentary by Yong follows the story of Damian, a struggling teenager at the bottom rung of Singapore’s academic ladder, and a young teacher Meixi, who is on a mission to transform the way learning is conducted in classes like his.
Both screenings of Unteachable during the Festival were sold out, and had its third run as part of the Audience Choice Award at the National Museum of Singapore on 1 December alongside the winners of the Best Asian Feature Film, Scales (Sayidat Al Bahr) by Saudi Arabian filmmaker, Shahad Ameen and Best Southeast Asian Short Film, I’m Not Your F***ing Stereotype by Thai filmmaker, Hesome Chemamah at the Silver Screen Awards.
To commemorate the SGIFF’s landmark edition, the Festival also closed with a 30th Anniversary Special Presentation screening of The Truth by Palme d’Or Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda on 1st December 2019 at Golden Village Grand. This latest feature by Kore-eda is his first out of Japan, and presents a unique taste of France as it tells the story of prima donna actress Fabienne (played by Catherine Deneuve) whose newly published memoirs are challenged by her daughter, Lumir (played by Juliette Binoche).
The 11-day SGIFF saw an outstanding lineup of stars and industry heavyweights gracing the Festival as they interacted with the audience during the red-carpet galas at Capitol Theatre, masterclasses and dialogue sessions held around the island. This included Golden Globe winning actress, Joanne Froggatt; Hollywood’s leading makeup effects artist, Barney Burman; acclaimed Indian actor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui; actor and guitarist of iconic Taiwanese rock band, Stone; distinguished Chinese actress, Yao Chen; and Taiwanese personalities, Wu Ke-xi and Hsia Yu-chiao. Esteemed filmmakers, Takashi Miike, Midi Z, Pang Ho Cheung and Anurag Kashyap, also graced the Festival.
For its 30th anniversary, the SGIFF also presented a series of events in collaboration with like-minded partners and welcomed audiences old and new to explore different facets of filmmaking. This included the launch of Nature’s Playground, an exhibition featuring self-portraits of nine local film and media personalities such as Kirsten Tan, Yeo Yann Yann and Yeo Siew Hua that illustrate their creative journeys inspired by nature, as well as the second edition of Moonlight Cinema where visitors enjoyed three movie screenings under the stars. Both events were held in partnership with Gardens by the Bay Youths Celebrate.
In the lead up to the SGIFF, illustrator Mary Bernadette Lee and filmmaker Gladys Ng also invited visitors to explore the ephemeral beauty of first encounters through film and art in a creative session titled Naiise Iconic x SGIFF: & held at the homegrown design brand’s new custom lab. Festival-goers went hands-on and explored the art of filmmaking as part of a series of workshops held in partnership with creative initiative, Today at Apple: The Craft of Film. Families, too, had their share of fun at the first-ever Singapore Media Festival Village at Armenian Street with SGIFF-curated programmes such as interactive audition & casting sessions and a workshop with award-winning filmmaker, and writer of the popular Netflix animated series, Rilakkuma and Kaoru, Naoko Ogigami.
SGIFF Executive Director, Yuni Hadi, said: “2019 is a significant milestone for both the SGIFF and Singapore as we celebrated 30 editions of the best of independent cinema led by a homegrown festival. While offerings have evolved over the years alongside changing entertainment choices, we remain rooted in championing the diverse voices in Southeast Asian independent cinema, growing appreciation of local and regional films, and enabling Singapore to be the discovery ground of this spirited storytelling. This year’s Festival attendance is indicative of the passionate interest from our community to discover more of the world through film and storytelling. We are also appreciative of the immense support from our partners who have journeyed with us to bring the best of our regional cinema to the audience. We hope that the Festival experience will continue inspiring more filmmakers and film lovers for our regional scene to grow and be strengthened year on year.”
SGIFF 2019 ran from 21st November to 1st December 2019. For more information, visit their website here