Singapore filmmaker Tan Bee Thiam’s satirical comedy Tiong Bahru Social Club to open the 31st SGIFF
Singapore, 3 November 2020 – The 31st Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) announces its full Festival line-up, as a hybrid format with cinema and online film screenings from 26 November to 6 December 2020, celebrating resilience and hope as the festival renews its purpose to discover Asian stories and deepen the appreciation of cinema in Singapore.
A leading international film festival in the region and part of the Singapore Media Festival (SMF), SGIFF will present a strong array of over 70 films by auteurs from 49 countries that speak for the times we live in, through stories that map our universal search for identity, community, existence and desire for change.
SGIFF’s Artistic Director, Kuo Ming-Jung shared, “We are pleased to bring the best, most impactful, moving and thought provoking films to the festival, to engage with audiences and the communities at large, because we believe a film festival can play a revitalising role in this unprecedented time.”
Local line-up: appreciating the richness of Singapore stories.
SGIFF is proud to present 22 Singapore films at the Festival, including debut feature Tiong Bahru Social Club (2020) by Singaporean filmmaker Tan Bee Thiam as the opening film. The satirical comedy will screen on 26 November 2020 at Shaw Lido. It introduces Ah Bee (starring Thomas Pang), who leaves his dull office job to join the Tiong Bahru Social Club—a data-driven programme that aims to create the world’s happiest residents in the idyllic neighbourhood. The snapshot of a micro-managed housing community delivers an amusing take on the ways we live today and questions the construct of happiness in Singapore. The film was selected at this year’s Busan International Film Festival and is nominated for SGIFF Silver Screen Awards’ Asian Feature Film competition.
Director of Tiong Bahru Social Club Tan Bee Thiam said, “I grew up with the festival, often running from screening to screening so I can catch as many films as possible. It’s here that I discovered the comedies of masters like Yoji Yamada and Jacque Tati, as well as contemporary voices like Maren Ade and Hong Sang-soo. It’s an incredible honour for Tiong Bahru Social Club to open SGIFF, a much valued platform for many filmmakers like me to find new audiences for the work we create, and new collaborators for the works we are going to make. Especially in a difficult year like 2020, I hope this film will bring you joy, as you reflect on the absurdities and priorities of life.”
Four Singaporean shorts are nominated for the Silver Screen Awards’ Southeast Asian Short Film competition, including The Smell of Coffee (2020) by Nishok Nishok, which premiered at the 2020 International Short Film Festival Oberhausen. The Singapore Panorama section will world premiere four features and showcase twelve shorts, including Citizen Hustler (2020) by Tan Biyun, which documents an evicted hawker’s journey after the closure of Sungei Road Flea market, and Faraway My Shadow Wandered (2020) by Liao Jiekai and Sudhee Liao that confronts a relationship with an unfamiliar hometown.
Films in Competition: the future of Asian filmmaking
SGIFF’s Asian Feature Competition spotlights a new generation of exciting talent in Asia, including Beginning (2020) by Dea Kulumbegashvili, which won multiple awards at the San Sebastián Film Festival. It also showcases The Wasteland (2020) by Ahmad Bahrami that received Venice’s Best Film in the Orizzonti section and Milestone (2020) by Ivan Ayr that premiered at Venice this year. All eight features present their take on personal and generational issues, challenge moralities or unspeakable violence, and will collectively showcase the speed of change and momentous future of Asian filmmaking.
World in Motion: unearthing the human condition
Sweeping, timely narratives that delve into the vulnerability and strengths of personal yet universal stories include this year’s Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner Nomadland (2020) by director Chloé Zhao and starring Frances Mcdormand in a powerhouse performance of a middle-class woman who hits the road in her van, and Silver Lion winner Wife of a Spy (2020) by Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Genus Pan (2020) by Fillipino filmmaker Lav Diaz, who took Orizzonti win for Best Director, and debut feature and Cannes selection Gagarine (2020) by French directors Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh.
Film lovers can look forward to hearing from established producer Shozo Ichiyama and critically acclaimed director Ann Hui, who will share the journey of their distinguished careers in Asian cinema at the Festival
Connecting the community of film lovers and filmmakers
Over the 11 days, Festival goers can enjoy films either in cinemas or at home. While some films will show in cinemas only and virtual screenings are only accessible to audiences in Singapore, there will be talks and panel discussions made available online to engage international audiences. Minimising face-to-face interactions in cinemas, the Festival will provide Singapore audiences the opportunity to connect with filmmakers through online Q&As recorded by SGIFF after film screenings, using the questions received from audiences.
Executive Director of SGIFF, Emily J. Hoe said, “We look forward to giving voice to the diverse stories from home and abroad, to audiences here in Singapore, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be screening these films in venues and in homes for the festival.”
The 31st SGIFF will be hosted across multiple Festival venues, including Shaw Lido, Filmgarde Bugis+, Oldham Theatre, The Projector and virtual platform The Projector Plus.
SGIFF is dedicated to the safety and well-being of audiences, filmmakers and the entire community and continues to work closely with venues to follow the latest directives from authorities.
SGIFF is an event of the Singapore Media Festival (SMF), hosted by Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA). SGIFF 2020’s Official Automobile is BMW.
For Media Enquiries, please contact:
About the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF)
Founded in 1987, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is the largest and longest-running film event in Singapore. It has become an iconic event in the local arts calendar that is widely attended by international film critics; and known for its dynamic programming and focus on ground-breaking Asian cinema for Singapore and the region. Committed to nurturing and championing local and regional talent, its competition component, the Silver Screen Awards, brings together emerging filmmakers from Asia and Southeast Asia while paying tribute to acclaimed cinema legends. With its mentorship programmes, masterclasses and dialogues with attending filmmakers, the Festival also serves as a catalyst for igniting public interest, artistic dialogue, and cultural exchanges in the art of filmmaking. The SGIFF is organised by the Singapore International Film Festival Ltd, a non-profit organisation with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status. For more information, please visit https://www.facebook.com/sginternationalfilmfestival/
About the Media Festival
The Singapore Media Festival, hosted by the Infocomm Media Development Authority, is one of Asia’s leading international media events, where the industry meets to discover the latest trends, talents and content in Asia for film, TV and digital media. Taking place from 26 November to 6 December 2020, the Singapore Media Festival brings together the Asian Academy Creative Awards (AAA), Asia TV Forum & Market (ATF) and ScreenSingapore, and Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF). SuperGamerFest will also be held in conjunction with SMF. For more information about the Singapore Media Festival, please visit www.imda.gov.sg/sgmediafest.
Mr Howie Lau
Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)
Assistant Chief Executive, Media and Innovation
Films have always served to enrich our understanding of the world. And in this challenging year, it is all the more important to have a platform like SGIFF, as part of the annual Singapore Media Festival, to celebrate and amplify the diverse voices of our region. I am heartened to see our local and regional content creators coming together in the spirit of reimagining Asian storytelling, and embrace innovation amidst a rapidly evolving media landscape.
Mr. Christopher Wehner
BMW Group Asia
The BMW Group recognises the value of supporting art and culture all around the world, especially in these challenging times, when everyone is looking for inspiration and joy in their lives. It’s our honour to continue supporting the film industry in the region and to be the Official Car for the Singapore International Film Festival for the fourth year in the row,” said Mr. Christopher Wehner, Managing Director, BMW Group Asia.
|Film Categories||Ticket Prices|
|All Other Films (Cinema)||$15.00*|
|All Other Films (Online)||$10.00|
|Talks and Panels||Register for free at sgiff.com/talksandpanels|
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Tiong Bahru Social Club (2020)
By Tan Bee Thiam
Singaporean producer, writer and director Tan Bee Thiam’s solo directorial debut is a satirical comedy about a micro-managed housing community, serving an amusing take on the ways we live today and questions the construct of happiness in Singapore.
Ah Bee leaves his dull office job to join the Tiong Bahru Social Club—a data-driven programme that aims to create the world’s happiest residents in the idyllic neighbourhood. Employed as a happiness agent, Ah Bee is tasked with taking care of Ms Wee. From looking for her cat to participating in group happiness exercises, it seems like the best job in the world. However, he grows increasingly alienated and questions their means of achieving happiness.
In a society where happiness is quantified and managed, tender moments in which vulnerabilities are revealed become radical acts that forge real bonds and rupture the veneer of an enforced happiness.
Silver Screen Awards: Asian Feature Film Competition
By Dea Kulumbegashvili
Yana, a former actress, and her minister husband are Jehovah’s Witness missionaries in a remote Georgian town. Following a horrific attack on their church, her husband leaves on a work trip. Yana, alone with her young son, is faced with a hostile community and a corrupt police that takes sides. Embroiled in an identity crisis herself, Yana endures physical and psychological trauma, with no one to turn to.
Through the juxtaposition of natural scenery against cold, domestic spaces, Yana’s torment is not so much seen but felt, resonating through the spaces she inhabits. Dea Kulumbegashvili’s still camerawork with precise mise en scène dispassionately paints a stoic front that belies the dark undertows of a woman’s suffering.
By Ivan Ayr
Ghalib, a Punjabi trucker in New Delhi, has hit a milestone. While his truck has covered 500,000 kilometres, our aging protagonist finds his life stalled by a workers’ strike, the loss of his wife, and an inexplicable pain in his back. When a young and eager Pash is assigned as his understudy, Ghalib realises what he must do to keep his life’s work from falling apart.
The harsh North Indian winter looms above all this, its grip constricting every worker’s life. Ivan Ayr’s film is a sobering portrait of a man who—even as he confronts his own disposability—insists on preserving his dignity. A stunning follow-up to Soni (2018), Milestone establishes Ayr as the humanist filmmaker of our generation.
The Wasteland (2020)
By Ahmad Bahrami
Bricks are replaced by cement, which is cheaper to produce. And so it is for workers at a brick factory, who recognise the looming finality. They look to their supervisor to mediate differences, while the factory owner offers lies and platitudes as salve. When that last day arrives, there is little closure: unpaid salaries, familial and ethnic tensions, unresolved romances.
The filmic style invites comparisons to Béla Tarr, Abbas Kiarostami and Persian verse. Ahmad Bahrami has, however, created a personal artistic signature, crafting a powerful story in which the individual and the spaces they inhabit are inextricably connected. Like the act of bricklaying, his images are weighty; they gain in intensity, culminating in a devastating final act.
Silver Screen Awards: Southeast Asian Short Film Competition
The Smell of Coffee (2020)
By Nishok Nishok
In the wake of his grandfather’s passing, Raga accompanies his grieving grandmother. A faint yet familiar smell piques his curiosity, leading him on a journey of self-discovery in the fading apartment.
By Ostin Fam
An alluring journey through the sacred and the profane, Binh features an alien in human form who arrives at the construction site of a colossal temple. His human encounters include a beguiling medium who has appeared in his dreams.
Judy Free (2019)
By Che Tagyamon
An impressionistic child’s-eye view from Judy, of the hope, longing, disruption and disappointment experienced by the families of migrant workers like hers during their infrequent reunions.
Citizen Hustler (2020)
By Tan Biyun
The forced closure of the Sungei Road flea market in 2017 leaves evicted hawkers like Fook Seng, in his 70s and with a variety of ailments, with little recourse. For him and his partner, negotiating is imperative to their survival—beyond their informal trade, it is the way they wend their way through the thicket of bureaucracy to access financial aid.
Joining them is director Tan Biyun, who wears several hats in the film: a listener in warm interactions, an aide to their efforts in securing financial assistance, while amplifying moments demanding action. In this irreverent collaboration, neither filmmaker nor subject is taken for granted: “This film advertises me,” Fook Seng declares.
Faraway My Shadow Wandered (2020)
By Liao Jiekai and Sudhee Liao
Once the heir to a family shrine, Junya leaves that behind to pursue his dreams, and now works at a pub. He befriends Sara, a visitor researching dance. Together, they return to Junya’s hometown near the Sea of Japan. The friendship grows in generosity as they share personal histories—their interactions marked by tender movements and a graceful ambivalence.
Inspired by the wintry coast they travel along, Faraway My Shadow Wandered ebbs and flows. Its rhythms take cue from gestures that rise and fall, while undated artefacts wash up onscreen. With elegies for the past accompanied by praises for things yet to come, the film gingerly responds to an urgent question in a fractured world: What does it mean to share with strangers?
By Tsai Ming-Liang
Tsai Ming-Liang continues his longtime collaboration with actor and muse Lee Kang-Sheng, who in real life, and in Days, is plagued by chronic neck pain. Lee’s character lives alone in a house up in the mountains, venturing into the city sporadically to seek different treatments for his ailment. Meanwhile, living in a small, spartan flat in Bangkok is a young man who similarly goes about his life unhurriedly, and mostly alone. One day, Lee visits Bangkok for treatment, and the two share a passionate encounter.
With plot, narrative and dialogue stripped to a bare minimum, quiet, mundane moments are allowed to unfold gently in real time. Imbued with a deeply meditative quality, Days is a tender study of intimacy, loneliness and the beauty of human connections.
Genus Pan (2020)
By Lav Diaz
The island of Hugaw is rife with dark myths and strange histories. In one legend, sightings of a black horse bring certain death; in another, the miasmatic fear that clouds the island is a colonial leftover that blights the land and scars the people. Darker still are the hearts of men, whose greed and penchant for violence one character likens to the genus Pan, or chimpanzees, humanity’s closest biological kin.
An allegory on the monsters that deprivation and avarice make of men, set against contemporary Philippines’ violent, traumatic history, Genus Pan is a bleak examination of the inescapable fate of the underclass who remains trapped in an endless cycle of violence.
Wife of a Spy (2020)
By Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Winner of the Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival, Wife of a Spy follows Kobe-based merchant Yusaku and his wife Satoko as they attempt to expose a horrific national secret. Navigating a complex, dangerous web of wartime political and military figures, Yusaku and Satoko’s marriage and trust in each other also enter uncharted waters. This first period piece by the prolific Kiyoshi Kurosawa ingeniously shapeshifts between captivating romance, electrifying spy thriller and elegant historical drama. With a side plot involving the making of a film, Wife of a Spy also becomes a thoughtful reflection on the role of cinema in archiving, capturing and disclosing truth.
First Cow (2019)
By Kelly Reichardt
When ‘Cookie’, a hired cook, discovers Lu, a Chinese immigrant-turned-fugitive, in the woods, he offers his tent as a safehouse. An off-chance reunion later bonds the two further, as they try to scheme their way to a better life. What follows is an enduring tale of friendship between two gentlemen, propelled by kindness under unforgiving circumstances, amidst the promise of the American dream.
In her seventh offering since 2016’s award-winning Certain Women, Kelly Reichardt offers an enthralling tale of the little guy versus the big guy, whilst highlighting the intimacy in male camaraderie.
By Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh
Youri, who dreams of being an astronaut, has lived his whole life in Cité Gagarine, a real-life housing project built in the ’60s and named after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Youri’s life and that of Cité Gagarine are deeply entwined: The building contains his childhood memories, and the community there is all he has ever known.
Following news of its planned demolition, Youri and his friends try to save the building, but residents gradually vacate. All life is soon drained from the edifice, where Youri resolutely remains. In a stunning magical turn, he creates a spaceship within the complex, and floats gently in space. Gagarine is a wildly imaginative exploration of isolation and community—themes that are especially relevant today.
By Chloé Zhao
Alongside a whole generation of middle-class, middle-aged Americans affected by the recession, Fern took to the roads. Living in her van, she chases seasonal jobs as they come along, spending summers in desert communes. On her journey, Fern meets many other nomads. They enter Fern’s world, like short chapters in a story, each with a wealth of tales from their own travels. While this camaraderie gives her temporary respite, Fern’s heart lies in wandering. Her unwillingness to settle down propels her to move steadfastly onwards.
Chloé Zhao presents a tender antithesis to the American dream. Her sensitivity to transitory connections and instinctive empathy crafts a deeply meaningful, circular tale of introspection.
In Conversation with Shozo Ichiyama
1 Dec, Sat / 7pm / 60min / Online
Japanese producer Shozo Ichiyama’s distinguished 30-year career has seen him enable some of the biggest names in international cinema: Takeshi Kitano, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Samira Makhmalbaf and, most notably, Jia Zhangke. Having begun his career at the Shochiku studio, he quickly sought ways to broaden his horizons and to champion independent and creative voices, working alongside international filmmakers and those in Japan. He has long been an advocate of new talent, which he has increasingly sought to promote as his own career and reputation have expanded. His determination to encourage new voices led him to launch the Tokyo Filmex festival in 2000. He is currently collaborating on his first project from Singapore.
Ichiyama will be discussing aspects of his career, such as working with notable directors, international co-production, finding new directors and selecting projects he believes in. What does he value in new directors? What areas should aspiring filmmakers focus on? And what is the future of independent production?
In Conversation with Ann Hui and Man Lim Chung
30 Nov, Mon / 9pm / 90 min / Online
Keep Rolling profiles acclaimed Hong Kong director Ann Hui, charting her filmmaking career of over four decades. A key figure inthe groundbreaking Hong Kong New Wave of the ’70s and ’80s, her diverse oeuvre ranges from martial arts films and thrillers to period melodramas and literary adaptations. Above all, she is best known for her nuanced and socially aware realist dramas that capture the most intimate anxieties of Hong Kong life. What shines through her remarkable body of films—and is reflected in Man Lim Chung’s documentary Keep Rolling—is Hui’s fierce independence towards her work and her profound humanism towards the subjects of her stories, which carries over from her attitude to life.
Hui will be in conversation with Man to reflect on her extraordinary career and cinematic achievements, and share her inspirational approach to life.