8 gorgeous and socially conscious films on show in Singapore right now

Before we get all excited for the annual Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) happening in August, let us revel in the precursor festival, The O.P.E.N. ,which is still on till Jul 9. Sadly, there have been high-profile incidents involving censorship this year, and two films have been withdrawn from last year’s original line-up because they required edits before public screening. But do not despair. There’re still a lot of amazing international titles for film buffs to sift through. So we picked a few that might spark some ideas for your next holiday.

Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous (Jul 2, 9:30pm)

Place of interest: Hong Kong

Inspired by the spirit of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, acclaimed cinematographer and artist Christopher Doyle, who is famed for his notable work on Wong Kar-wai’s films, chronicles the lives and ambitions of three generations of the city’s residents. 

Embrace Of The Serpent (Jul 3, 5pm)

Place of interest: The Amazon rainforest in Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina

A powerful Amazonian shaman turns into a chullachaqui—a human who is void of memories and emotion—after living in the jungle alone for many years, until he meets an American ethnobotanist who’s on a mission to find the sacred plant, Yakruna.

The Treasure (Jul 3, 8pm)

Place of interest: Romania and France

A seemingly average family man who considers himself as a modern-day Robin Hood hero catches wind of a secret treasure hidden in his grandparents’ garden and decides to dig for the elusive loot over a weekend.

Tharlo (Jul 4, 7:30pm)

Place of interest: The mountains of Tibet, China

The life of the pony-tailed Tharlo revolves around being alone in the mountains of Tibet, but that all changes when he heads to the city to get his first photo ID. He gets his hair cut by a pretty-looking hairdresser, and the two quickly begin a courtship with all the modern-day indulges and desires.

The Island Funeral  (Jul 5, 7:30pm)

Place of interest: Everywhere between Bangkok and Pattani, Thailand

A young Muslim woman residing in Bangkok journeys south to Pattani with her brother and his friend to visit her long-lost aunt. While on the road trip, they notice the changing landscapes of the predominantly Buddhist country, and meet with the harsh realities of political insurgency and ethno-religious strife in the southern region.

Invisible (Imbisibol) (Jul 6, 7:30pm)

Place of interest: Philippines and Japan

The film documents the stories of undocumented Filipino workers who work in Japan to support themselves and their loved ones back home—two middle-aged lovers fall in love but hide it from their families, an aging gigolo struggles to make ends meet and a woman fights with her Japanese husband over the undocumented tenants in their home.

The Bacchus Lady (Jul 7, 7:30pm)

Place of interest: South Korea

So-young is one of South Korea’s veteran “Bacchus ladies” who turn tricks for a living. One day, she takes little Min-ho in after his mother gets detained by the police, spurring her to work harder the moment he becomes kin to her.

Love Story Not (Jul 8, 9:15pm)

Place of interest: Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Two sex workers from different class backgrounds find themselves in a messy love triangle with Erik, who relies on them financially, while trying to survive in a system that marginalizes them.


The O.P.E.N. Pass, $45, available at Sistic, can be used for all programmes during the pre-festival event. Otherwise, you can purchase the O.P.E.N. Single Entry Ticket for exhibitions, films, talks, salons and Club Malam (all subject to limited availability at the door). For a full list of screenings, head here.