Arts Film News Singapore

SGIFF 2021: Singapore International Film Festival Announces Winners of the 2021 Silver Screen Awards

The 32nd Singapore International Film Festival announces the winners of its 2021 Silver Screen Awards, recognising both the region’s up-and-coming as well as established filmmaking talents. This year, a total of 13 awards were presented across six categories; Asian Feature Film Competition, Southeast Asian Short Film Competition, Southeast Asian Film Lab, Youth Jury & Critics Programme, Audience Choice Award, and the inaugural Outstanding Contribution to Southeast Asian Cinema Award. This year’s ceremony was held virtually and will air via YouTube.

“The Singapore International Film Festival first introduced the Silver Screen Awards in 1991 and we’re celebrating our 30th anniversary of the awards with incredible milestones, such as the inaugural Outstanding Contribution to Southeast Asian Cinema Award.” shared Emily J. Hoe, Executive Director of SGIFF.

“We continue to be inspired by filmmakers in the region and beyond as they continue to persevere and bring thought-provoking stories to life under these tough circumstances. SGIFF is proud to celebrate their achievements and honour their exceptional contributions through the Silver Screen Awards. Our heartiest congratulations to all award winners, and we look forward to being part of their cinematic storytelling journeys in the years to come.”

– Emily J. Hoe, Executive Director of SGIFF

The winners of the Asian Feature Film Competition were selected by a jury of prominent figures from the Asian film industry. They are acclaimed Taiwanese filmmaker Peggy Chiao Hsiung-Ping; Filipino actress Angeli Bayani; festival programmer of DMZ International Documentary Film Festival (South Korea) Kim Young Woo; and director of the Film Archive (Thailand) Chalida Uabumrungjit.

Panah Panahi’s feature debut, Hit the Road (Iran) was awarded the Best Film. A beautiful and touching portrayal of the journey that led to a heartbreaking separation, the film is a celebration and continuation of the legacy of Iranian film tradition that has heavily contributed to world film culture. The jury appreciated how the film “masterfully weaves raw poetic imagination with humour, melancholy, and humanism.”

Best Director was awarded to Indian director, P.S. Vinothraj for his debut film, Pebbles. A sobering film on movement, migration and futility of escape, Pebbles is an unassuming story of a father-son relationship which unravels itself into a filmic imagination that melds inventive camerawork with the vast topography of the Tamil Nadu landscape. The jury lauded P.S. Vinothraj for his cinematic sense, stating that “in every direction, the mise-en-scène balances the stroke of the sublime with the conflicting entanglements of toxic masculinity.”

Tolepbergen Baissakalov was awarded Best Performance for his role in Fire (Kazakhstan) by Aizhan Kassymbek. The jurors were moved by his “subdued yet powerful performance, inviting the audience to take a glimpse into the heart of a man who deeply loves his family and friends, doing his best by them and always fighting the good fight”. They elaborated that “underneath his humour and positivity, we can feel the palpable heaviness in his heart.”

For the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition, the panel of judges come from multidisciplinary backgrounds: film programmer and editor Nose Chan Chui Hing from Hong Kong; archive consultant and film programmer Lisabona Rahman from Indonesia; and Singaporean filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua, whose film A Land Imagined (2018) won multiple accolades at the international film festival circuit. The works in the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition present vibrant diversity of storytelling by different generations of filmmakers. Each film skilfully performs critical engagement with local realities and explores the cinematic possibilities of addressing our complex relationship to the present and the past. Although obviously diverse in languages and forms, the films show unified concerns on injustices embedded in the practice of filmmaking which especially affects the less privileged in terms of race, gender, class or species, and propose their individual ways of creating which channels beauty, empathy and solidarity in the context of Southeast Asia.

The Men Who Wait by Vietnamese director TruƠng Minh Quý was awarded the Best Southeast Asian Short Film. The bold film centres around three anonymous men who seek gratification in different ways on a slag heap once trodden by coal miners. Jurors described The Men Who Wait as a film that “beautifully draws us in where the superimposition of space between men living on the margins are left waiting, wanting. A cinema that is as unapologetic and bold as it is painfully real and ephemeral.”

Best Director was awarded to Singaporean co-directors Mark Chua & Lam Li Shuen for their explorative short A Man Trembles, which set against the backdrop of the Asian Financial Crisis, tells a story of a family who confronts a mysterious entity at the island of Sentosa on their last day on Earth. The jury awarded the film for its “exquisite balance of performance and tone” and commended the directors for creating “a unique blend of genre” to tell an unnerving story that “resonates so disturbingly of a not-so-distant future”.

“We are so honoured to receive the Best Director award in the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition. With our film A Man Trembles, us and the whole team felt an urgency to reflect on the emotional climate here today and to express as Singaporean filmmakers, ideas and reflections inspired by the historical and existential undercurrents of life here. Receiving this award for us is an invigoration towards putting out into the Southeast Asian film landscape, expressive, honest films pouring from and peering into the Singaporean bone and soul.”

– Mark Chua & Lam Li Shuen

Taking home the Best Singapore Short Film award was visual artist and art writer Lucy Davis, whose evocative docu-film, {if your bait can sing the wild one will come} Like Shadows Through Leaves, reminisces the years of engagement with the sights, sounds and communities of the demolished housing estate of Tanglin Halt. The jury, calling the film “a work of deep collaborations”, praised Lucy Davis for successfully turning “her years of engagement with the spaces and communities into an immersive enchantment that left us spellbound.”

“Thank you very much to the SGIFF Jury 2021 for awarding this Best Singapore Short Film award to a Migrant Ecologies Project collaboration. This honour goes to my entire team as the film is indeed a collaboration. Like Shadows Through Leaves and the larger art project is the closest that Migrant Ecologies Projects have come to advocacy in that it is a call to policy makers to truly take time, be in one place truly listen, to humans to birds, to shifting leaves, to the more than human possibilities which can flourish if given space and time to do so.”

– Lucy Davis

The Youth Jury Prize was awarded to Grandma’s Broken Leg by Vietnamese director Huỳnh Công Nhớ . Lauded as a film that “democratises filmmaking”, the jury praised director Huỳnh Công Nhớ for “his daring vision which blurred the line between fact and fiction and perfectly embodied the notion that the personal is political.”

February 1st

This year the jury decided to give Special Mention to February 1st by Mo Mo & Leïla Macaire (Myanmar), a short on how two filmmakers from different parts of the world negotiate their changing relationship with Myanmar amidst the country’s military coup. The jury felt its unique and outstanding merits “inspired in (them) courage” through the intimate account of two women “whose encounters of freedom ignited the fires of political awakening in their young hearts.”

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 – celebrated Indonesian film director Edwin, who was behind this year’s opening film Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash; Taiki Sakpisit, prolific filmmaker and visual artist from Thailand; and Tan Chui Mui, award-winning Malaysian director and producer. The programme ended with the filmmakers pitching to a panel of industry experts who then selected the Most Promising Project and Fellowship Prize.

Ukrit Sa-nguanhai

The mentors awarded the Most Promising Project to The Itinerant by Thai filmmaker, Ukrit Sa-nguanhai. The film depicts an anticommunist itinerant film troupe presenting screenings in rural Thailand when the troupe stumbles upon a missing dead body. The Itinerant was praised for highlighting “the urgency and the importance of the subject, and the reflective way of relooking the function and effect of cinema in our society.”

Paul Rembert Patindol

Two Fellowship Prizes were awarded this year, to Paul Rembert Patindol (Philippines) for his debut project Rafael; and to Pham Hoang Minh Thy’s (Vietnam) second project Daughter of the Mountain God. The award was shared between these two unique filmmakers whose films capture the vast and complex trajectories of their own family legacies in the most intimate and personal manners.

Pham Hoang Minh Thy

For Rafael, the mentors were “touched by the genuine spirit and bravery of the project’s artistic vision and its daring and intimate portrait of interpersonal relationship.” For Daughter of the Mountain God, the mentors awarded it to the Vietnamese filmmaker for its “testament to the power of film and a celebration of hope. The film was awarded as it served to remind us of the roots of filmmaking and the innocent joy at the core of image-making.”

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’s programme was led by esteemed local playwright and poet, Alfian Sa’at. Alfian is the Resident Playwright of Wild Rice, and has won the Golden Point Award for Poetry as well as the National Arts Council Young Artist Award for Literature in 2001.

Tracey Toh

The Young Critic Award goes to Tracey Toh (Singapore) for her essay on the short film “(If your bait can sing the wild one will come) Like Shadows Through Leaves”. Paying attention to the various elements in the film — not only the visual but importantly, the audio — the essay is an ecocritical dive into the entanglements between bird and human life. In doing so, it makes an argument for cinema as a mode of perception, a way of attuning our deadened senses to the life that flourishes around us.

SGIFF has awarded the inaugural Outstanding Contribution to Southeast Asian Cinema Award to Southeast Asia Fiction Film Lab (SEAFIC), for their exceptional work in elevating regional cinema. Founded in 2016, SEAFIC is a pioneering script lab for first- to third-time filmmakers with work-in-progress scripts across Southeast Asia. SEAFIC aims to advance, strengthen and refine the quality of feature-length film projects from Southeast Asia in a competitive international film industry. Most recently they launched the SEAFIC Seed Lab — a new lab concept aimed at developing the directorial voices of short-filmmakers prior to their first feature scripts. Besides filmmaking, the award takes into consideration resource-building, heritage preservation and promotion, among others.

The much-anticipated Audience Choice Award was awarded to Some Women by Quen Wong (Singapore), marking the third time a local film has received this award. In this intimate yet powerful debut feature, local transgender filmmaker, Quen Wong, lays bare her vulnerabilities to reclaim her identity. Locating herself within the local trans community, the documentary also weaves in interviews with different generations of trans women including ‘Anita’, a former legend of Bugis Street—a world-famous stomping ground for trans women in the 1950s to the ’80s—and Lune Loh, a trans youth activist. The winner of the Audience Choice Awards will be re-screened on 5th December, 6.30pm at Filmgarde Bugis+ to mark the finale of 32nd Singapore International Film Festival.

Says director Quen Wong: ““I’m absolutely thrilled that Some Women has been so well received by our audience. My love letter to my trans community and home country has been received with more love! Can’t wait for even more audiences to see the film and celebrate our shared humanity.”

SGIFF 2021 runs from 25th November to 5th December 2021. For more information about the SGIFF, visit their website here

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