2018新加坡月
Cinematic Singapore
Curator’s Notes
Once upon a time, there was a Golden Age of Singapore Cinema from the late 1940s to early 1970s, where hundreds of movies are being produced by two major film empires based in Singapore - Shaw Brothers and Cathay-Keris Organisation. Those were primarily Malay language films which were popular with audiences in Malaya. However, with independence and the separation of Singapore from Malaysia as well as the growing popularity of television and Hollywood productions, both the Shaw Brothers and Cathay-Keris film studios would eventually ceased production between 1967 – 1972. There were literally no movies being produced in Singapore for over 20 years and this drought in filmmaking lasted until 1995, when Eric Khoo made his first film Mee Pok Man. The independently produced arthouse film travelled to 38 film festivals all over the world including the prestigious Berlinale, and won numerous awards and international recognition for Singapore Cinema. Three years later, the first Money No Enough was produced with Jack Neo as the main creative force being the scriptwriter and lead actor, and the film grossed SGD6 million at the local box office, rivalling the success of Titanic! These two landmark films, Mee Pok Man and Money No Enough, are widely credited to have kickstarted the revival of filmmaking on our tiny red dot, with creative talents and investors having more confidence in the art and business of filmmaking.
Over the next two decades since the revival, the type of films produced in Singapore gradually branch out into two distinct directions – the indie arthouse films that are similar in tone to the early films by Eric Khoo, which gained recognition and accolades travelling to international film festivals, and the more commercially successful local comedies and drama that are best epitomised by the movies produced by Jack Neo, targeted mainly at the heartlands suburbs for the local Chinese audiences.
For the first ever Singapore Film Festival to be held at National Palace Museum Southern Branch this October, we are proud to be presenting a diverse selection of Singapore films that consist of popular box office hits and critically acclaimed award winners, and more importantly our film selection offers audiences a window into the many cultural facets of Singapore, and celebrates our filmmaking talents.
We will open the film festival with 7Letters, the omnibus project headlined by Royston Tan and 6 other filmmakers including Jack Neo and Eric Khoo to celebrate our SG50 (Singapore’s 50th year National Day celebration). Our second programme to be held on Double Ten Day will be the Double Bill screening of Jack Neo’s Long Long Time Ago 1 & 2, which told the story of a family that lived through our pre-independence ‘Kampong Days’, rural villages that predates the HDB public housing projects. Both 7Letters and Long Long Time Ago look deeply at the milestone events which affected many people living in Singapore and Malaya in those early nation building years, and our inexplicable relationship and historical ties with our neighbouring Malaysia. In the following week, Singapore Dreaming offers a sombre and realistic view of a Chinese Singapore family struggling with the economic challenges of pursuing their dreams, while The Big Day is a light hearted rom-com which capitalizes on the charm and chemistry of its Taiwanese and Singaporean stars, namely Desmond Tan and Amber An. It is also a fun trivia fact that veteran actor Richard Low plays the role of the father figure in both Singapore Dreaming and The Big Day, showing us his range as both a serious character actor and pulling off a comedic role.
In the third weekend, we trace back to the historical and cultural roots of Xinyao, a Chinese folk song movement that was very popular and influential with Singaporean youth in the 1980s to early 1990s with the screening of the documentary film The Songs We Sang, followed by That Girl In Pinafore, a youthful romance comedy that was inspired by Xinyao songs.
In the final weekend, we have two films by two of the most promising directors of Singapore Cinema today. Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo, is a heartfelt and personal story about a 10 year old boy and his Filipino maid set against the backdrop of the Asian Financial crisis in late 1990s. Ilo Ilo won the Camera d’Or (Best First Film) at the Cannes Film Festival, and went on to travel to numerous international film festivals and eventually pick up the Best Picture at the 50th Golden Horse Awards. Apprentice by Boo Junfeng is a gripping drama that deals with a highly contentious topic that is the death penalty. How the director navigates the heavy topic and draws us into the world of his characters – the young and veteran executioners, are masterful strokes of cinematic genius coming from a young director Boo Junfeng who was only 32 years old when he made the film. Both Anthony Chen and Boo Junfeng best represent a new wave of talented and young Singaporean filmmakers who are taking the international stage of film festivals by storm, while also gaining popularity with our young local audiences. It is fitting that we choose to end the month-long inaugural Singapore Film Festival@NPM with Apprentice, a Malay language film directed by an ethnic Chinese, as we pay tribute to our heritage of Malay Cinema and the multi-ethnic make up of our country. We hope you would enjoy our selection of films and this festival will just be the starting point for you to discover even more exciting and thought-provoking Singapore Cinema in the near future!
Curator
David Lee
Vice Chairman of the Singapore Film Society
Programme sponsor