Friday, June 10, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Singapore Film Festival, June 16 to 19, 2016

Classics and more-recent entries from Singapore’s resurgent cinema movement will screen next week in the Singapore Film Festival at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

The Singapore Embassy’s third annual Bangkok showcase of the city-state’s cinematic offerings will have five films, from 1997’s 12 Storeys to last year’s omnibus 7 Letters, which was made to honor the 50th anniversary of Singaporean independence.

Others are the 2007 musical comedy 881, the 2015 thriller 1965 and the brand-new drama Long Long Time Ago.

The classic 12 Storeys serves as an introduction to Singaporean cinema and culture, with three interweaving tales that are set in one of the city-state’s ubiquitous Housing Development Board (HDB) apartment blocks. Directed by leading Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo, the characters include a fumbling middle-aged husband and his gold-digging young bride, an upright and a young man left in charge of his troublesome teen sister and baby brother, and a lonely, depressed young woman and her domineering, overly critical mother. Much acclaimed, 12 Storeys won the best film prize at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Royston Tan brings the cheer with 881, a colorful, fun-filled musical comedy about the Papaya Sisters, a glitter-bedecked duo who race around the city performing epic song-and-dance numbers on the getai concert circuit. The childhood friends find themselves at odds as they are challenged by a flashier rival act, the Durian Sisters. Tan’s musical was Singapore’s submission to the Oscars and was a nominee for make-up and costume design at Taiwan’s prestigious Golden Horse Film Festival.

Singapore’s beginnings are reflected in a pair of dramas, 1965 and Long Long Time Ago.

Directed by Randy Ang, 1965 has a Chinese girl abducted and racial tensions coming to a boil in the months leading up to Singapore’s separation from Malaysia.

Long Long Time Ago spans the 50 years from 1965 to 2015, following a family as they move from the city-state’s mostly vanished kampong villages to an HDB flat. It’s a heartfelt and nostalgic dramatic effort from director Jack Neo, who is better known for his hit comedies, such as Money No Enough and I Not Stupid.

Finally, there’s 7 Letters, which features the work of Khoo, Tan and Neo, plus noted documentary filmmaker Tan Pin Pin, cult genre-film director Kelvin Tong and up-and-coming indie filmmakers Boo Junfeng and K. Rajagopal. The seven-segment film represents “love letters” to Singapore, with stories of its diverse people, lost love, identities, inter-generational family issues, unlikely neighbours and traditional folklore.

The Singapore Film Festival runs from June 16 to 19 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Films will have English and Thai subtitles. Tickets are free and will be handed out 30 minutes before the shows. For the schedule and other details, check

(Cross-published in The Nation)

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