The 31st Singapore International Film Festival has announced the winners of its 2020 Silver Screen Awards, recognising the best in film production across the region. This year saw a total of 11 awards presented across four categories, including the Asian Feature Film Competition and Southeast Asian Short Film Competition, in ceremony that was held virtually on 5th of December.
The winners of the Asian Feature Film Competition were judged and decided by filmmakers João Pedro Rodrigues, Mary Stephen, Mouly Surya and John Torres. Milestone, a film by director Ivan Ayr was awarded Best Film under the Asian Feature Film Competition category. The film tells the story of Ghalib, a Punjabi trucker in New Delhi as he finds his life stalled by a workers’ strike, the loss of his wife, and an inexplicable pain in his back. Ivan Ayr’s film is a sobering portrait of a man who – even as he confronts his own disposability – insists on preserving his dignity. The Jury found the film to be a great humanist story, that is confident and nuanced, with a strong script and engaging direction. The Jury added “The film’s strength is in how it draws the audience into its story with scenes that are complex and well executed.”
Taking home the award for Best Director was Dea Kulumbegashvili whose film, Beginning, examined the extreme isolation of a woman’s suffering that is quiet, though no less acute. The Jury described the film as a beautifully crafted piece that demonstrates an exceptionally strong voice from a debut director. “Dea Kulumbegashvili’s directing capabilities convinced right from the very start. Her work shows a powerful, decisive approach towards filmmaking,” shared the Jury.
Best Performance went to Suvinder Vicky for his role as Ghalib in Milestone. The Jury described his performance as “delicately understated and quiet, yet with a power that carries viewers through the film. It was full of emotion but held together with a beautifully restrained quality.”
This year, the judges for the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition consisted of multidisciplinary artist Ho Tzu Nyen, filmmaker Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit and academic Wang Chun-Chi. Under the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition, Tellurian Drama, directed by Riar Rizaldi was awarded the Best Southeast Asian Short Film. The film – a docufiction – investigates alternative Indonesian histories through a rumination of colonial ruins, the role of technology, and the invisible power of indigenous ancestry. Jurors described Tellurian Drama as a film that interestingly mixes different filmmaking skills and has a tint of epic grandeur. It explores the complexity of the colonial past that all who share the history of colonialism can relate and reminds us of reviving the value of what is forgotten and obsolete.
The Best Director award was presented to Lin Htet Aung, for his short Estate, which explored a story of a son looking after his dying father. The Jury awarded the film for its uncompromising originality and profound beauty brought through such a masterpiece.
Taking home the Best Singapore Short Film award was director Nelson Yeo, whose film, Here is Not There tells the story of two lovers who reflect on the transitory lives they lead in Singapore. The Jury praised the ambition of the film, describing it as inspiring and addressing the important issues of migrant workers, exploitation, work-related injury and discrimination against pregnant women at work. “These are concerns not only for Singaporean society, but all societies affected by globalisation”, the Jury added.
This year the Jury decided to give Special Mention to Red Aninsri; Or, Tiptoeing on the Still Trembling Berlin Wall by Ratchapoom Boonbunchachoke. The jury felt its unique and outstanding merits could not be ignored.
The Youth Jury Prize was awarded to The Unseen River by director Phạm Ngọc Lân. The Jury lauded the film as mesmerising, beautiful and affecting, standing out for its atmospheric and narrative qualities. “Its poetic disposition and immersive engagement support its meditative exploration of spaces both metaphorical and literal”, the Youth Jury added.
The Southeast Asian Film Lab provides a nurturing and collaborative space for filmmakers who are embarking on their first feature- length film project. During the Film Lab this year, filmmakers received personal feedback from three mentors – Shozo Ichiyama, the head mentor, with Nandita Solomon and Mai Meksawan. The programme ended with the filmmakers pitching to a panel of industry experts who awarded the Most Promising Project and Fellowship Prize.
Nong Nhat Quang from Vietnam took home the Most Promising Project award for the film Baby Jackfruit Baby Guava, while Charlotte Hong Bee Her from Singapore, director for Tropical Rain, Death-Scented Kiss was conferred the Fellowship Prize.
Meanwhile, the Youth Jury & Critics Programme aims to nurture new film critics who can contribute to Southeast Asian film culture and discourse. This programme provides the opportunity for mentorship in the art of film criticism, while invited speakers also enrich the learning experience by sharing about different types of critics, their role in film culture and what it is like to have a career as a film critic. This year, Chris Fujiwara, the mentor for the programme, based his choice on four criteria: the quality of evaluation; a critic’s point-of-view; the ability to connect a film to broader social issues; and an appreciation of cinematic aesthetics. Accordingly, the critic who he felt best combined all of those attributes was Nicole Wong Kar Mun, who was awarded with the Young Critic Award.
The much-anticipated Audience Choice Award was awarded to Sementara by Chew Chia Shao Min and Joant Úbeda, marking the second time a local film has received this Award. The film features casual interviews with people from different walks of life, each with their own set of values and beliefs. The subjects share deeply personal stories and their perspectives on issues such as religion, race, identity, and mortality. Unhurried interviews are interspersed with highly recognisable local scenes, and at times punctuated with serendipitous poetic moments.
Executive Director of the SGIFF, Emily J Hoe, said: “The Singapore International Film Festival’s Silver Screen Awards are a great testament of the amazing works of filmmakers in Singapore, Asia and the rest of the world. In addition, the programme has a significant role in opening up greater opportunities for the growing talent in this region. Especially this year, the ability to celebrate the local and regional film community makes us incredibly grateful to all who have given their time and support under most difficult circumstances. Congratulations to all award winners this year, and we look forward to uncovering more cinematic gems in the years to come.”
The winners of Best Asian Feature Film, Best Southeast Asian Short Film and Best Singapore Short film will be re-screened on 6th December together with the Audience Choice Award winner to mark the finale of 31st Singapore International Film Festival.
SGIFF 2020 ran from 26th November to 6th December 2020 both online and across multiple venues. For more information, tickets and the full lineup, visit their website here