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A long take on SIFF, read at your own risk! (Some film recommendations too!)

on . Posted in Entertainment.

Ok ok, the time is here again! Yes, it’s the 19th Singapore International Film Festival! So, is anyone out there who is excited? (Waiting and tapping finger on the table)…

All right I know the SIFF isn’t something which is terrbily exciting to everyone, but here is a little insider’s story that might help you appreciate this yearly local film event a little better…

Just not too long ago, like maybe last year? A friend told me that the SIFF might not happen this year because their main sponsor Asia Pacific Brewery, had been warned by the government not to fund the event. The reason? I think a documentary on Chee Soon Juan was made and the SIFF tried to screen it in the local short films competition non-finalist screening. That made’YOU KNOW WHO very, very much unhappy. Moreover there was the Royston Tan’s fiasco a few years back when he made ‘Cut’ to poke fun at the film censorship here. Yes,’’Cut’ was screened in the festival.

Then rumours surfaced that the men dressed in white wanted to stop the event! Horrors! What will happen to the future of Singapore film-makers?! Wait, I need to take a deep breath to calm down…

Fine, fine…’dramatics aside, the government isn’t that bad afterall, they are pumping money to fund local talents here to encourage film-making via the Singapore Film Commission funding programme. We are a developed country so how can we do without the arts right?

Anyway, came DHL to the rescue. Phew! Fortunately for them , the SIFF is still running. So let’s get to the main point here: FILMS.

The film festival has been a yearly pilgrimage for me since it’s tenth run in 1997. I saw numerous films and was a huge fan of Hou Hsao Hsien, Tsai Ming Liang and Edward Yang. Yes, but that only lasted two years, because I could no longer keep up with their soporific films with incomprehensible meanings. Except for Edward Yang whom I still admire, years of SIFF experience has thought me to pick films carefully. To date, I think out of ten films I saw, probably only two were worth the time.

From Asian film-makers, I moved onto the Americans, lost faith and then moved onto the Europeans… and I lost faith. Somehow the films’in selection seemed to get worse every year. According to that same insider friend, she told me that is because films get distributed more easily then before, so a lot of films do not need to wait for screening in festivals, especially the commercial arthouse ones which ponder the meaning of life while keeping us entertained.

So picking interesting films to catch at the SIFF has become a sort of a lottery game. A colleague told me she has given up, she’ll leave the selection to her friend who has the golden touch. Right, her friend always managed to pick the interesting films while she always took the ultra depressing, slow-moving ones. Okay, I know films are subjective…

I shalll try my luck this year, since I picked a really funny South American film last year titled ‘Whisky’ and that boosted my confidence… A LOT.

I have picked a few films for the 19th SIFF as a recommendation purely from my experience reading the synopsis. Trust me if you want, if not that’s fine by me too (In case you hate the films I pick and run after me with your shoe for the $9.00 spent napping and drooling in the cinema).

Here goes…

First up, ‘Adam’s Apple’ seems like an interesting film. It’s Danish and the Danes are well-known for their dogma films. I don’t know if this is dogma style but it talks about Adam, a neo-Nazi, who is paroled to the care of Ivan, a Pastor, whose faith is about to be shaken by Adam. Adam is encouraged to pick apples from this tree to bake a pie. But the apples are always attacked by worms, birds and lightning. There goes Ivan who thinks that the devil is trying to stop Adam, while Adam thinks evil does not exist – it’s God. I think this comedy might either be funny or could be a long dialogue about good and evil. But it’s a comedy so it most likely should be funny.

Of course there is a gay film on offering and it is entitled, ‘50 Ways of saying Fabulous’. It’s about the misery of gay youth in 1970s New Zealand. I bet this one would be snapped up fast so get your butts moving if you made a pact with yourself to catch at least one gay film at the SIFF a year!

Documentaries? Sure, there are documentaries as always. I have missed the Chinese Restaurants series the past years and I think I will be catching the one this year. ‘Beyond Frontiers’ is a 15-part series on the Chinese diaspora through its most recognizable icon -’ the Chinese family run restaurant. I am biased here, that’s because I love food, and I am Chinese.

Just in case you are already bored by my article, I will recommend one more… The honour goes to… ‘C.R.A.Z.Y.’ This is another coming of age story of a boy neglected by his father and living in a strict Catholic family. To escape from the repressive family, he turns to DAVID BOWIE! Fantastic choice I must say, and yes, the word sexual alienation is mentioned in the synopsis so I am wondering if this film has got gay theme in it.

Don’t forget to give our local film-makers support in the short film competition category. These shorts will be screened for free at the Goethe-Institut at Winsland House on the 15th April, starting with the finalists from 11am – 1pm’ and the non-finalists from 2pm-6pm. They will screen the finalists again in the evening at 7pm. Also, Royston Tan’s film ‘4.30′ will be screened as a closing film accompanied by a $21 prize tag! You decide if you want to watch it or get a bootleg copy.

Lastly, how can I forget? The SIFF runs from April 13 to 29. You can get your tickets at ticket charge booths or online at

I will review the films that I will be watching and a word of reminder – Do not come after me if the films I recommend here suck! Have fun at the movies!



# pleinelunee 2010-02-02 01:10

pleinelune said,

April 8, 2006 at 1:10 am

I love watching films, and I love making them. :) Only if I weren’t a student, and had the time and money to go for the screenings… *sigh*
# mmint 2010-02-02 01:10

mint said,

April 8, 2006 at 9:42 pm

Hey, I watched films by Hou Hsiao Hsien, Tsai Ming Liang etc too. I even went for the Hou Hsiao Hsien conference last year. Ok, his speech wasn’t interesting. I agree that the 2 directors mentioned made film with incomprehensible meanings. Perhaps a feeling (more than a meaning) was what they want to convey. Like the lonliness and alienation in Tsai Ming Liang’s Vive L’Amour.
# pPure ego 2010-02-02 01:10

Pure ego said,

April 9, 2006 at 12:25 am

Really? Wow! Great to find fellow film lovers here! For pleinelune, what kind of movies do you like? And mint, sad to say I only understood Vive L’Amour, but I was totally lost on What Time is it There? and Tsai’s latest, I forgot the title of the film now but it has the word cloud on it!

Maybe we should gather to catch film fests together!

# Jjade 2010-02-02 01:11

jade said,

April 9, 2006 at 2:06 am

we’ve got the queer film festival here. it’s really interesting. hope singapore can set up one too
# pleinelunee 2010-02-02 01:11

pleinelune said,

April 9, 2006 at 9:16 am

Hey jade, just out of curiousity, which country do you live in? They seem to be really liberal over there?

Yeah, pure ego, we should. My kind of films… it varies. As long as the acting/plot/direction is good, I’ll watch it. Just that I don’t get to watch many, not even mainstream movies… no time!
# Mmint 2010-02-02 01:11

mint said,

April 9, 2006 at 11:34 pm

Hi Pure ego, the ‘cloud’ film was The Wayward Cloud (tian bian yi duo yun). I didn’t like that one too. Especially the singing part, it is a sudden change of mood, sudden change of costumes and color, made it so comical.

As we are on films, I would like to recommend Iwai Shunji’s Swallowtail butterfly. It is about the minorities in Japan. Very nice. but i am not sure where could it be bought/rent at.
# PPure Ego 2010-02-02 01:12

Pure Ego said,

April 10, 2006 at 11:14 am


Well same here I like films where the story means something as opposed to the usual hollywood offerings. Haha… Hmm I never heard of Swallowtail butterfly.

There’s a place at Tanglin Shopping Centre on the 3rd level I think that serves up art house films but they are mostly on VHS. There used to be a German guy with his Cantonese wife who are there the whole day just to tend to the shop. The German guy speaks good Cantonese too.

They are both really old and that guy passed on not too long ago. For his contribution in bringing in arthouse movies, he was honoured at the Substation if I rememebered correctly.

I will be catching the local short film finalists on 15 April at 11am at the Goethe Institute, so if anyone is keen see you there!

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