“We would rather not screen it than screen a cut version”: Zhang Wenjie, Singapore International Film Festival Director

The MDA is partially funding the festival, but they also police media guidelines. Is that hard for a film festival like you?

We go through the usual classification guidelines process, because that is what is required of us to screen a film in Singapore in public. If you cannot get a rating, you send the film for appeal. If after appeals and discussion, the film cannot pass, we would rather not screen it than screen a cut version.

How’s the local film scene post-Ilo Ilo? Is it fair to think of things like that?

I’m really happy for Anthony. I’ve known him since he was in school. But I feel Ilo Ilo is just one film. A film industry needs to be very diverse. On one hand you have local blockbusters that do well at the box office. In the middle you have accessible films for someone who wants a more layered or in-depth film experience. On the other hand, you have experimentation. The best industries work that way. The range creates new jobs and new ideas.

Well, are we there yet?

The odds are stacked against local films. The commercial theaters have a system in place, where they have partnerships with major Hollywood studios. They have their calendar planned out. I don’t blame them. It’s a commercial consideration. But if you talk to local filmmakers—who are not Jack Neo—there’s no space for them to release their film. We are a small market. We cannot sustain five local films a month like Thailand or Malaysia. They have the numbers to buy tickets.

The 2014 SGIFF will run Dec 4-14. Details on the program are forthcoming.