Singapore Film Festival Opening Night: Local Angle

Singapore actors Sheila Sim, Sunny Pang and Shane Mardjuki, were among the special guests who graced the gala opening of the 33rd Singapore International Film Festival, at speciality arthouse cinema Projector Picturehouse.

The trio headline Boi Kwong’s “Geylang,” a breathless, full-throttle crime thriller set in Singapore’s infamous red-light district. The film is being screened in the festival’s Singapore Panorama sidebar for local filmmakers.

“I am glad that local films make up a quarter of this year’s overall line-up at the festival.  It’s a strong showing and testament to the achievements of our homegrown talents.” said Josephine Teo, Minister for Communications and Information. “We welcome and appreciate good films from around the world.  At the same time, we will always support local filmmakers through platforms like the Singapore Media Festival and SGIFF and help them shine brighter on the international stage.”

Kazakh actors Berik Aytzhanov and Daniyar Alshinov were two of the few foreign personalities to walk the red carpet, in support of their film “Assault,” the opening film of the festival.

Opera Tang, the drag performer and protagonist of documentary “Baby Queen” also walked the red carpet. Joined by fellow drag performers, Ada Heart and Femme Fartale, Tang brought a splash of colour with her Teochew opera-inspired makeup and gold flapper dress by Singaporean designer Dennes Prive.

“Baby Queen,” directed by Singaporean Lei Yuan Bin, was a late addition to the lineup and follows Tang’s life and relationship with her 90-year-old grandmother. The film’s LGBT subject matter strikes a poignant note in light of recent LGBT-friendly political developments. The city state recently voted to repeal a British era law decriminalising sexual relations between men.

Notably absent were the cast and crew of banned film #Lookatme, although actor Shane Mardjuki wore a T-shirt with the film’s logo in support. The film will not be screened at the festival after its depiction of a revenge plot on a Christian pastor was deemed to have breached race and religious guidelines by authorities. It remains however, on the festival lineup. Director Ken Kwek’s 2012 film “Sex.Violence.FamilyValues” also fell afoul of similar guidelines. It was banned in neighboring Malaysia for scenes “insulting to local cultures.”

The festival runs Nov. 24 – Dec. 4.