Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Under the Banyan Tree - The Wizard of Oz, Singin' in the Rain

The National Museum Cinematheque continues its popular "Under The Banyan Tree" series of outdoor screenings:

Fri 25 April - The Wizard of Oz

Sat 26 April - Singin' in the Rain

It's free! Turn up early to get good seats on the lawn :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Akan Datang - Manufactured Landscapes, Kes, Picnic at Hanging Rock

Movie-ed out after SIFF? Hope not :)

The Singapore Film Society is screening the documentary Manufactured Landscapes, based on the stunning work of photographer Edward Burtynsky.

Sat 26 Apr
The Picturehouse
12:30pm Screening
2:00pm Post Screening Discussion

MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES is a feature length documentary on the world and work of renowned artist Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky makes large-scale photographs of ‘manufactured landscapes’ – quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines, dams. He photographs civilization’s materials and debris, but in a way people describe as “stunning” or “beautiful,” and so raises all kinds of questions about ethics and aesthetics without trying to easily answer them. (read more...)

Youtube trailer:


If you've been to the National Museum lately, you'd have also seen the new ads for the World Cinema Series that SFS co-programs with the National Museum Cinematheque.

In May we're screening Ken Loach's Kes:

Tues 6 May
Gallery Theatre

A realistic, unsentimental and poignant portrait of youth and education, KES is one of Loach's most impassionate and best films. The film won two BAFTA awards when it was released and is ranked seventh in the British Film Institute's selection of the favourite British films of the 20th century. David Bradley's naturalistic and
memorable performance as the young Billy Casper has often been regarded as one of the great adolescent portraits in cinema, joining the ranks of Jean-Pierre Leaud in François Truffaut's THE 400 BLOWS 1959). (read more...)

And on 10 June, look out for Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Monday, April 14, 2008

SIFF 2008 -- Milky Way Liberation Front, Keronchong for Pak Bakar, After the Rain

Leaving the cinema after the end credits for Milky Way Liberation Front rolled, that was the end of SIFF 2008 for me. I was already tired when we sat down to watch that movie. It was a good way to end the festival. Milky Way Liberation Front was fun, a long string of gags that gently poke fun at indie filmmaking, film festivals and the people who participate in them.


Like his first short Datura, Abdul Nizam's Keronchong for Pak Bakar is distinguished by impressionistic editing with strong narration and the use of vocabulary with religious undertones. There isn't a clear narrative or chronological momentum, but the mix of image and narration can be slightly hypnotic.

I agree with Tan Pin Pin's comments about the film: the work is concerned more with Abdul Nizam's relationship with Abu Bakar bin Ali than with the latter's past. In fact the documentary strongly suggests that the Abdul Nizam in the film is seeking a father figure identified with the golden age of Malay cinema. This search is expressed early in the movie as a search to know more about movie legend P Ramlee, through which Abdul Nizam discovers serendipitously that the man who lensed many of his movies lived just above him. At one point, Abdul Nizam expresses in regretful tones how he discovered too late that his hardworking father had loved film stars and movies. Throughout, Abdul Nizam is extremely respectful - even protective - towards Abu Bakar.

The material used in the documentary come from two major sources. The first is clearly the recorded footage from Abdul Nizam's conversations with Abu Bakar. The second is more mysterious -- footage of a train journey up Malaysia to Penang, ostensibly taken while location scouting for a feature film on P Ramlee's life (according to Abdul Nizam the project eventually fell through).

Empty spaces feature prominently here, partly illustrating Pak Bakar's current solitude. When I asked Abdul Nizam why he weaved in the silent, lonely sequences from his train journey, he indicated that it was partly to convince Abu Bakar to come out of his solitude more often, perhaps to work on film again.

That documentary left the audience with far more questions about Abu Bakar Ali than answers. Why did Abu Bakar stop working on films? Why does he mostly talk about technical matters -- for most of the documentary he is fiddling with an old Bolex handheld camera -- and nothing about himself?


I'm still surprised that SIFF screened Royston Tan's latest short "film" After the Rain before Keronchong for Pak Bakar. Rose-tinted nostalgia and banal cliches (the father coughs to prefigure his eventual death) pliantly placed in the service of the government's ideological imperatives. This is an unabashed propaganda piece.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

IFFS Film Exchange Program

Got a short film you'd like to show?

Call For Entries - International Federation of Film Societies (IFFS) - Film Exchange Program

The Singapore Film Society in association with the International Federation of Film Societies (IFFS) is proud to promote the IFFS Film Exchange.

This film exchange is a non—profit initiative to drive the appreciation and understanding of cultural and creative works across the world - works which would otherwise remain unknown, unseen and unappreciated.

The 3 groups of countries that are participating in this exchange program are:

1. Latin America
2. Europe
3. Asia

Rationale for the Film Exchange Program

International Federation of Film Societies (IFFS) brings together the film societies of the world for the common aim of facilitating and promoting the exhibition and appreciation of cinematic works.

The IFFS believe that many worthwhile films (both long and short) do not screened outside of its country. Only films which have won prizes at major film festivals tend to get international distribution, sales or exhibition. A film as a form of creative work, and an international language medium, deserves to be seen. Specifically, the
IFFS Film Exchange Program aims to:

1. Broaden the scope for cultural exchange (through the film medium) among the countries of the world, through the extensive contacts and network of the IFFS.

2. Increase the opportunities for the global audience to see samples of good quality cinematic works which are not available through normal channels, commercial or otherwise.

3. Enable filmmakers globally to engage with each other, with the hope that such contacts will lead to beneficial exchange and provide inspiration for further creativity.

1. Film Entries

• Films must be submitted before 25 May, 2008 for consideration.
• Films must be submitted on a DVD.
• Films whose original language is not English should be
subtitled in English.
• Filmmakers are to provide suitable information and credits
for each work (e.g. title, director, running time, year of
production; plus a synopsis; filmmaker contact emails/telephone no.).
• Film submissions can be made through the Singapore Film
Society at filmexchange at sfs dot org dot sg

2. Selection of films

• The organiser reserves the right to select films for inclusion in the exchange as it sees fit.
• Films included in the exchange will be announced on the 31 May 2008.

3. Permissions, Rights and Benefits

This is a non-profit initiative to generate an appreciation and understanding of cultural and creative works across the world - works which would otherwise remain unknown, unseen and unappreciated.

• Filmmakers undertake to grant unlimited screenings to the film clubs within the IFFS.

• No fee will be paid to the rights holders, but filmmakers will be acknowledged in the programs.

• Notification will be given to the film-makers prior to the
screening(s) of their films.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The SFS since 1958 -- A History

Jan Uhde and Yvonne Ng Uhde, authors of Latent Images: Film in Singapore, included a comprehensive history of the Singapore Film Society in their book (later CD-ROM).

They've generously consented to let us reproduce that section on our homepage.

However, records from the 1960s and 1970s suggest the Film Society might have been active even before 1958. A January 1961 Sunday Times article noted that the Singapore Film Society had been "in existence for six years." Similarly, in February 1971, film critic Koh wrote that the society "had been in existence for some 16 years." In the 19 March 1985 edition of The Singapore Monitor, Wong Sing Yeong claimed that "the Singapore Film Society was formed in 1956 to complement the commercial cinema by screening less popular art films."

Click here to read the complete extract.


Latent Images is a key academic work on the history and development of Singapore cinema. I recommend the CD-ROM version, released 3 years after the book with some updates. It also contains video clips - interviews and footage of the former Shaw studios at Jalan Ampas.

If you're interested, you can get it online from the Asian Film Archive.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

SIFF Quick Cuts - 8th April 2008

Yep, got a lot to catch up on. I'll be working backwards from my most recent viewings. Hopefully I can get to the Perspectives Film Festival (31 Mar - 4 Apr 2008) before too long.

(Darn it Stefan, don't you sleep? :D )

Singapore / 2007 / 30 mins
dir. Sam Loh

Another example of a short film based on an idea rather than a story, the idea here being two strangers connecting with each other via personal items left behind in a hotel room.

(compare with: Il Mare (시월애, Siworae) (2000) and its American remake The Lake House (2006))

The material is clumsily handled though, and ends up a string of romance cliches. For instance the actors fade in and out of scenes to suggest presence, and recognise each other right away when they meet for the first time.

The sensual possibilities of the items – a shawl, cigarettes, lipstick – through which the protagonists build their imagined connection, is never fully, intimately explored. Vivid is coy to the point of emptiness. A bit odd coming from Sam Loh, who's perhaps best known for Outsiders. This was his debut feature film, about two detectives after a necrophiliac serial killer, and was withdrawn from SIFF 2005 after MDA insisted on cuts.

Diminishing Memories II
Singapore / 2007 / 60 min
dir. Eng Yee Peng

The follow up to Diminishing Memories (2005) by Eng Yee Ping, and really a study of her quixotic obsession with her own imagined idea of Lim Chu Kang.

I don't know whether this was deliberate - Eng is not only the director but also appears as herself in the documentary, talking and interviewing people - but there are moments when she realises that she might simply be pursuing a falsehood. For instance, she asks a developer of a agri-tourist attraction if he was planning to dig a well, then later wonders why she asked that question when there was no well on the land to begin with. Eng also includes an interview with her mother who, close to tears, exhorts her to stop being so obsessed with the past. However, at the end of the documentary Eng does not seem to have reached any reconciliation between her ideas of Lim Chu Kang and the present.

Eng's techniques need more sophistication too. Diminishing Memories II looks and feels much better suited for television than cinema (perhaps due to her previous work experience in a Current Affairs Unit at Mediacorp). Eng also often falls back on verbal and visual cliches, most notably in a scene at the end where she stands, looking offscreen into the distance, evening sky behind her, camera angled up at her from a low position while her voiceover decribes her feelings. For me, Eng's singular obsession is the main attraction in this slightly naive, melodramatic work.

DigiCon 6+3 ; ASFI presentation - 20 April 2008

The SFS together with MDA, Mediaction and *scape, present a free screening of winning animation shorts from last year's Digicon 6.

*scape Lab
113 Somerset Road
Singapore 238165

2pm – 3.30 pm: DigiCon 6+3 screening

3.30 pm – 4.30 pm: Animated Short Film Initiative presentation

Screenings include Grand Prize winner, Toshiaki Hanzaki's Birthday, and Outstanding Performance winners: Ryu Kato's Around, Southern Star Singapore's Old Lightning and Taketo Shinkai's Yama to Hito.

Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc (TBS) has organised DigiCon6 since 2000, to discover and support new animation talent throughout Asia.

And after the screenings, stay for the presentation and Q&A on the SFS-MDA Animated Short Film Initiative, a scheme to fund animated short films of up to 30 minutes. Selected short films funded by other international funding bodies will also be screened.

Free admission for screenings and presentations. But seating space is limited.

If you've any questions please don't hesitate to email animation at sfs dot org dot sg.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"Megumi" gets anime treatment

At last year's Japanese Film Festival, we screened the documentary Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story. , about a 13 year-old girl kidnapped by North Koreans in 1977.

Now there's a 25 min anime version of the story (though not, it seems, based on the documentary)

No need to wait for a film festival this time -- it's available for free downloading off the Japanese government's Headquarters for the Abduction Issue website.

(From Anime News Network)