The organizers of the 33rd Singapore International Film Festival are naturally keen to demonstrate that the event is as back to normal as possible after two years of COVID upheaval. Thong Kai Wei, in his first full year as program director, was also keen to make his mark in the line-up.
This effort was materialized by the expansion of the geographic area of the Asian-themed festival and the simultaneous completion of the transition to the thematic presentation of choice.
“When I came in, I wanted to break the geographic mold of how organization should be done. I wanted to categorize them in terms of interests. So, I thought through them in terms of where you would put things,” said Thong. diverse.
This year’s lineup includes 101 films (fiction and short) from 50 countries, to be screened over 11 days. Domestic films made in Singapore account for about a quarter.
The thematic structure now arranges titles according to six different categories: elevation, foreground, horizon, undercurrent, standing point, and field.
In the introduction, Thong says, it includes accessible, first-of-its-kind festival films. Falling into this category this year are: “The Third World War,” the multi-award winning Sir Human of Venice; Irish psychological thriller “Nocebo” starring Eva Green and Mark Strong; and the first Korean movie, “The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra”.
Thong’s new Altitude division is the high-level pen for Asia’s leading directors making important films. Titles here include: “Feature Film” by Hong Sang-soo; Jaafar Panahi was named “No Bears” and Carla Simon was awarded the Golden Bear in Berlin “Alcarras”.
The other new section is Horizons. “The thing here is festival finds that really expose audiences to different perspectives from all over the world. And maybe stories that they’re not familiar with. It’s really [designed] For the domestic audience to open up and broaden their horizons. Among the ten: Malaysian folk horror “Stone Turtle”. “Divine Factory,” an observational documentary by director Joseph Mangat from the Philippines for the first time; And (increasingly rarely) a Chinese film, “A Long Journey Home,” another new film from director Zhang Wenqian.
The point of view section is a collection of topical, political, or currently relevant headings. Unsurprisingly, this is the Asian premiere of A House Made of Splinters, Simon Learing Wilmont’s documentary about refugees in Ukraine. It also includes a disability documentary “I Didn’t See You There”, “Myanmar Memoirs” by the anonymous creative resistance known as Myanmar Film Group, and “We Don’t Dance For Nothing”, which was inspired by the memories of some of the 400,000 OFWs in Hong Kong.
“The undercurrent section makes room for more imaginative expressions. We have some artists and directors who are included in a more experimental section. Some of these films are not really on the festival circuit. We really plucked them out of the contemporary art scene,” says Thong.
Selections include “De Humani Corporis Fabrica,” an immersive, lively journey through the structures and pathologies of the human body and medicine in the 21st century, shown first in Cannes Directors Sidebar Weekly; and “All the Things You Leave Behind” by Thai director Chanasorn Chikitipurn and “Unburied Voices of the Turbulent Horizon” by Vietnamese director Tuan Andrew Nguyen. The final pair are politically charged films that take a homegrown look at the lasting impact of war.
Curator’s division, Domain sees Southwest Asia and Northwest Africa specialist Roisin Tapponi handle a selection of films about the Earth and the places we call home. Among them are “Alfon” by Jumana Manna, about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the political myth of the Lebanese director Ali Shri, “The Dam”.
With both conservative and active Singaporean censors, SGIFF’s selection is always open to change from abroad. When Variety spoke to Thong and festival executive director Emily J. Hoe they were awaiting decisions from authorities on their proposed lineup. By the time the festival began, one of their choices had been denied public release for an alleged violation of racial and religious laws. But in a belated move, they gave major prestige to pull the “Baby Queen” documentary.
This year, same-sex relationships have been particularly in the spotlight. Singaporean authorities insisted on giving the animated film “Lightyear” a rating of 16 or more, due to its gay kiss, but later in the year said it would decriminalize homosexuality.
Hoe’s viewpoint is calmly defined and optimistic. “We’ve never been shy about content that addresses LGBTQ issues, and we still won’t shy away from it,” she said. “It remains to be seen, from a classification perspective, whether [decriminalization] Change [censors’] sensitivity level. I have been researching censorship for the past fifteen years. It can be very flexible. I think there has been progress. Then sometimes it goes backwards.”