Unearthing tales of home

Unearthing tales of home
Cinema still: Little People, Big Dreams

If you fear that all festival films are arthouse works, with every negative connotation attached to that term - foreign, navel-gazing, slow - this year's Singapore International Film Festival might change your mind.

The range of works at this year's event, which opens tonight, runs the gamut from thrillers to epic romances to insightful documentaries, says festival executive director Yuni Hadi, 38.

Nowhere is the range better illustrated than in the Singapore Panorama section, she says. Five screenings are already sold out. There are a total of 10 features, comprising both documentaries and fiction works, an increase from the eight that were screened at the last edition of the festival in 2011.

This focus on home-grown films could be seen as a reflection of the mood in the larger film-making community.

Lei Yuan Bin, director of the sold-out documentary 03-Flats, has observed that among the community, there is a new surge of optimism, leading to more projects getting under way. The reasons for the optimism include the inspirational example of Anthony Chen's wins for Ilo Ilo (2013) at last year's Cannes Film Festival and Golden Horse Awards, and more flexible funding options by the Media Development Authority.

Launched at the 2008 edition of the festival, the Singapore Panorama continues to showcase local film-makers. Like the rest of the festival, it has a mix of works that might see the light of day in the mainstream cinema, as well as those likely to have more niche appeal.

This year's wide mix of styles and genres "reflects where we are and how our voices are all different", Ms Yuni says. The more accessible films include Han Yew Kwang's raunchy comedy Rubbers and the erotic thriller Lang Tong by Sam Loh, she says.

She notes that a good number of the film-makers, such as Han and Loh, are alumni of previous festival editions, but there are also a number of directors making their debut features and shorts. "Our job as organisers is to support them, whether they are first-time film- makers or returning to the festival for their second or third time," she says.

And yes, the list will include the highly personal, stripped-down works that people associate with arthouse, she adds. "Singapore film-makers are unearthing all these stories that need to be told. The Panorama section is a place for personal expression."

Life! profiles five home-grown films worth catching at the festival.

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