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Singapore International Festival Of Arts 2017: 5 Key Works You Shouldn't Miss

As Singapore’s biggest arts festival, the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) is an extravaganza not to be missed. Running from June 28 to September 9, there’s really no reason for you to miss out on the festival.

It’s also the last time SIFA will be directed by veteran thespian Ong Keng Sen, who is artistic director at local group TheatreWorks. Ong, a former Cultural Medallion winner (Singapore’s highest arts prize), is well known for his dedication in pushing directional, avant-garde leaning works that tackle, among other things, sensitive topics in Singapore, such as the ever controversial issue of censorship.

This year’s edition of SIFA is themed around “Enchantment”, which Ong says is
“pleasurable but is also an antidote against the injustices of this world.” Given the tumultuous times we live in right now, I’d be inclined to agree.

Below, our picks of the most unique and one-of-a-kind experiences you shouldn’t miss out at this year’s SIFA:

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#1: Lizard On The Wall
Ever wished you could be part of a film – even just as a calefare? Well you’ll get the chance to do just that at Lizard On The Wall by acclaimed local director K.Rajagopal, who just debuted his first full-length feature film (A Yellow Bird) last year at Cannes. Filming will take place at a secret location over several days, and there will even be a “red carpet gala” for the completed film held at The Projector a couple of months later, at the closing of SIFA on September 9. 30 Jun, 1 Jul : 7pm – 10.30pm, 2 Jul: 2pm – 5.30pm. For more details, click here.  #2: O.P.E.N. Kitchens + Picnic
Going by  Lebanese culinary activist and chef Kamal Mouzawak’s philosophy of Make Food Not War (something we can all agree on, surely?), the O.P.E.N. Kitchens program see 20 home cooks opening their homes (and wildly different cuisines) to the audience, who is invited to actively participate in the cooking for a communal feast. As the program states, “these kitchen encounters reveal that no matter the invisible borders and how different we think we are, there is always something between us that we can savour.” Amen to that. Ongoing throughout the month of July, various locations. For more details, click here.  If you’re not one for cooking, then the O.P.E.N Picnic, a related program, might be more suitable. A one-day only event taking place at the Malay Heritage Center, four Lebanese chefs will be cooking up a storm of Lebanese dishes for everyone to partake in. Best of all, it’s also free as well. July 9, 3.30pm, Malay Heritage Center. For more details, click here.    #3: Henrico's Farm
If the idea of acting makes you uncomfortable, how about simply observing a movie in the making? Nor is it just any old movie – Henrico’s Farm is the next film by one of South-East Asia’s most revered directors, Lav Diaz (he won the top prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival). Part of Henrico’s Farm will be shot in Singapore and SIFA audiences are invited to come on set and watch the legendary Filipino director at work and how a movie is made. August 26 – September, various timings, 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road. For more details, click here. #4: Dragonflies
Anyone who is concerned about the rise of populist far-right politics, Donald Trump, global warming ad worldwide paranoia against immigrants, this is the play for you. Staged by local theater group Pangdemonium, Dragonflies is set in the near future of 2021, where Donald Trump has been re-elected as the United States president (horror of horrors). A Singaporean family, who immigrated to England, is now forced to return to their homeland due to environmental and political instability. The play asks, “where do we go from here?” – an increasingly pertinent question as no country will be truly exempt from the effects of global warming and politics. August 24-26, 8pm, Victoria Theatre. For more details, click here. #5: Becoming Graphic
New York Times Bestseller and Singapore Literature Prize-winning cartoonist Sonny Liew (2015’s The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye) will be debuting his next graphic novel through live illustrations on stage. Not only that, he will be joining forces with theatre actor Edith Podesta, who will be performing the storyline. This interweaving of diverse disciplines (in this case, comics and theatre) is a signature of SIFA and of festival director Ong Keng Sen. We’re looking forward to it. August 17-19, various timings, 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road. For more details, click here.  Like this? Check out this seminal black and white photography exhibition staged by Loewe, the latest indie films to check out this summer, and fashion writer Keng Yang Shuen’s picks of what to wear to the Yayoi Kusama exhibition.