The Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) returns at the end of the month for its 41st edition, marking a change of the guard at the helm as Singapore Repertory Theatre director Gaurav Kripalani (check out our interview with him here) takes over as the festival director. And among hundreds of events by performers from 15 countries is the pinnacle performing arts festival’s film series, Singular Screens, which will see one Asian premiere and 12 Singapore premieres.
By now, you probably already know how Singapore is in abundance of good film screenings, whether it’s art-house films paying homage to an acclaimed filmmaker at The Projector, films that address critical issues or film festivals on the beach. But with so many choices, it can be a little daunting, especially for casual filmgoers looking to dip their toes. That’s where we come in.
Out of the 13 films being screened at SIFA—all curated by Asian Film Archive—here are six you might want to start with. Tickets are $9 a pop while a bundle of three costs $24, available here. All films will be screened at Screening Room, The Arts House, from Apr 28-May 11.
A Man With Integrity (Lerd) (Apr 28, 4pm / May 3, 7:30pm)
Directed by Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, who’s known for socially and politically charged works, A Man With Integrity (Lerd) follows a man living the simple life by minding his own business and tending to his goldfish farm in northern Iran, but faces the threat from the growing power of corruption from the powers that be. The film was banned in Iran, but went on to win the 2017 Un Certain Regard prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, as well as the Best Director (International) and Best Actor (International) at the 54th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival.
I’ve Got A Little Problem (Apr 28, 7:30pm)
“When we discuss degrees of freedom, we’re not free. Freedom comes when the word freedom no longer exists.” Controversial Chinese photographer and poet Ren Hang shocked the world one last time when he took his own life last year leaving behind an article called “My depression” on his blog. While tragic, this 44-minute documentary doesn’t shine him in such a light. Instead, ambitious documentary filmmaker Zhang Ximing documents his life, art and of course, troubles in an optimistic way, as we see the young artist seek out his own artistic voice and freedom while battling a society that deems his topic of work as taboo.
Die Tomorrow (Apr 30, 7:30pm / May 1, 7pm)
When it comes to heart-warming, tear-jerking and moving films, the Thais have it down to a tee. Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s Die Tomorrow is a poignant film that explores the normalcy and seemingly unexciting 24 hours of six people in Bangkok before their inevitable death. Through documentary-like interview footage, news reports sound recordings, statistics and archive material, the film portrays the small and ordinary moments that present a melancholic and philosophical reflection of fate and the fleeting fragility of life.
Arabia (May 4, 7:30pm)
This political road movie starts of with the goings-on of a teenage boy residing in the industrial area of Minas Gerais, a state in Brazil. However, the story quickly shifts when he finds a handwritten memoir of a local factory worker who was incapacitated by an incident at work. The teenager delves head first into this worker’s life, uncovering the colorful story of an ex-con’s happiness, sufferings and adventures on the road in search of work, often reflecting Brazil’s state of social and economic development.
Team Hurricane (May 5, 7pm)
It’s a coming-of-age story at its most explicit; one where you’ll see a group of eight teenage girls who refuses to conform to society’s often-misguided “norms”. This is Danish filmmaker Aniika Berg’s first feature film, which premiered at last year’s Venice International Film Critics’ Week. She describes this punk chick flick as a “love letter to the teenager within herself”. The treatment of Team Hurricane is as schizophrenic as life during the transition from youth to adult, with psychedelic shots of neon-colored words mixed in with fictional elements and documentary-style material that explores loneliness, pussy-power, friendship and so, much, more.
24 Frames (May 11, 7:30pm)
“I’ve often noticed that we are not able to look at what we have in front of us, unless it’s inside a frame.” How true his quote stands, as Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami challenges himself in this film—a graceful swan song—to bridge his life’s work as both a filmmaker and a photographer. He chooses 24 still images, most of which are of beautiful landscapes with nothing but foraging birds and other animals, and digitally adds motion to create four-minute vignettes; a poignant study of movement, perception and time.