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SGIFF 2019: The Highlights And Films To Watch Out For

SGIFF 2019: The most prestigious film festival in Singapore celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, opening with Anthony Chen's latest film, Wet Season.

For the uninitiated, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is the most prestigious entity on Singapore’s crowded film festival scene – there’s one practically every week of the year. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the festival, which runs from Nov 21 to Dec 1 across multiple venues (Capitol Theatre, National Museum of Singapore, National Gallery Singapore, The Projector, Filmgarde Bugis+, Golden Village Grand and Objectifs)

More than 90 contemporary and classic films from 40 countries will be screened in total – out of which 17 are local works (both features and shorts). If you’re a film buff, you’ve probably heard that acclaimed director Anthony Chen will be opening the festival with the Singapore debut of Wet Seasons, his second feature film after 2013’s Ilo Ilo.

Film talents to be honoured at this year’s festival include Japanese auteur Takashi Miike, who has directed more than 100 films, including Ichi The Killer (2001) and 13 Assassins (2010). The Cinema Icon Award will be going to Chinese actress and activist Yao Chen while the Inspiring Woman in Film Award, presented by Swarovski, will be presented to Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann, leading lady of both Ilo Ilo and Wet Seasons. Above, some films that caught our eye that you’d do well to get cracking on.

All film stills courtesy of SGIFF. 



Wet Season
Has it already been six years since Anthony Chen’s award-winning Ilo Ilo? The director, famed for being extremely fastidious, has opted to reunite his cast from Ilo Ilo – the “mother and son” duo comprising of the excellent Yeo Yann Yann and Koh Jia Ler respectively – in the gentle and slow-moving Wet Season. Only thing is, six years later, Koh, now 18, plays a student who has a crush on Yeo’s teacher, who’s constantly sidelined, be it in the subject she teaches (Mandarin) or at home, where the husband is constantly away for work. Nov 21, 8pm Capitol Theatre Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Winner of the Queer Palm at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a French historical drama set in the 18th century that’s been garnering rave reviews internationally. Just check out what Vincent Quek, founder of independent film distributor Anticipate Pictures and one of the local film industry’s most discerning players, had to say about this work: “A sensuous, tender and honest portrayal of the budding friendship and love between two souls in 18th century patriarchal France. This is Call Me By Your Name meets The Piano for the L in LGBTQ. The film is gorgeous – a painting in literal motion. My personal top film of the festival.” Nov 23, 9.30pm (Filmgarde Bugis+) Nov 30, 10pm (Oldham Theatre) Flowers of Shanghai
Any film by Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-hsien is always a treat and Flowers of Shanghai (1998) is often considered to be one of his best and most visually captivating. It’s set in the pleasure quarters of 19th century Shanghai, focusing on five courtesans and the complicated, semi-monogamous relationships they have with their patrons. Did we also mention Tony Leung is the leading man in this film? Nov 30, 4.15pm Filmgarde Bugis+ Memories of Murder
An early work by Cannes winner Bong Joon-ho (you’re probably familiar with Okja and his latest work Parasite, is a must-watch), Memories of Murder was based on Korea’s first serial murders. The film follows a pair of detectives who attempt to crack the case but to little payoff, due to their inexperience at handling a case of such magnitude. Nov 23, 2pm The Projector And Then We Danced
Selected as Sweden’s entry to next year’s Oscars, the film zeroes in on the rivalry between newcomer Irakli and aspiring dancer Merab, who hails from a family of dancers. They’re both aiming for a spot in the prestigious national ballet but somewhere along the way, rivalry gives way to something softer and more ambiguous. Nov 22, 6.30pm (The Projector) Nov 24, 10.15pm (The Projector) Nina Wu
Essentially a hard and discomforting look at how young women actors are exploited in order to get a leg up in the entertainment industry, the titular Nina Wu, a young-ish actress finally gets the call she’s been waiting for – the lead role in a promising film. Her rise to fame is not without cost though – she soon starts to have mental breakdowns and becomes increasingly unstable. Nov 24, 8pm Capitol Theatre The Truth
Palme d’Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda has directed nearly 20 films but The Truth is his first set outside of his native Japan. Set around a top actress Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve) and the new release of her memoir, her daugher Lumir (Juliette Binoche), with whom she has long had a contentious relationship, arrives to confront her regarding what was set out in the book. Dec 1, 7pm Golden Village Grand