“Tiger Stripes”, the opening film of this year’s Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), was “kind of a joke that became something very, very close to me and ended up being this film,” Malaysian filmmaker, Amanda Nell Eu, said during Thursday night’s opening ceremony.
Speaking to a packed theatre before the screening, Eu said her inspiration had been puberty mixed with her sense of humor.
“I love playing with horror. I love playing with comedy and I was like, I want to make a film about a girl who literally turns into a monster because I felt like a monster as a kid,” she said. “ ‘Tiger Stripes’ is really a story that fights for the people who feel like they don’t fit in society.”
Opening the festival, Singapore filmmaker and SGIFF chairperson, Boo Junfeng, talked about the event’s “sense of community” and a “collective sense of purpose.” The SGIFF is a component event of the Singapore Media Festival, which also includes next week’s Asia Television Forum (ATF).
Boo highlighted SGIFF’s contribution to Southeast Asia’s film industry, but he failed to mention that Singapore is screening “Tiger Stripes” intact and uncensored. That is in contrast to Malaysia, which has picked the film as its Oscar contender but where censors have cut so much out of it that Eu has disowned the local print.
The festival “has become an important platform that nurtures emerging talents in Southeast Asian cinema, creating a launchpad for the region’s rising stars, helping their voices reach a global audience,” he said.
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“It has been a challenging year, challenging times for many of us in the industry,” he said. “It is my firm belief actually, that our best days are ahead of us,” he added.
This year’s 34th SGIFF is the last for executive director, Emily J. Hoe, who admitted to having dome “rain prayers to the weather gods” to spare the opening from the showers that have been drenching the city daily.
Hoe leaves after four editions of the festival, including two during the pandemic.
Boo described Hoe as a “steadfast and fearless leader of the film warriors that you have been. I don’t know how we would have done it in those trying times without you.”
In addition to Chinese super star actor Fan Bingbing, who gives a masterclass this weekend, overseas visitors included Pham Thien An (“Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell”).
Singapore filmmakers were plentiful. Those in attendance, including director Nelson Yeo (“Dreaming and Dying”), producers Fran Borgia and Jeremy Chua, spoke of the local industry’s ambitions beyond the festival circuit.
“We do well on the festival circuit, but we’re still lacking commercial films,” said Mocha Chai Laboratories’ co-founder, Michelle Chang (“Wonderland”).
Momo Film Co’s founder, Tan Si En (“Dreaming and Dying”), said a shift in genres is under way, as well as a greater openness to collaborations.
“We’re at a point where film is become less art house and more commercially minded,” she said.
“I don’t want to make films only for festivals. I want to connect with larger audiences, have a bigger footprint,” she said.
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