Unlucky Plaza to open film fest

Unlucky Plaza to open film fest
Unlucky Plaza by director Ken Kwek (below) made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month.

Local director Ken Kwek's new work Unlucky Plaza will open the rebooted Singapore International Film Festival on Dec 4.

It is the first time a Singapore film is opening the 27-year-old festival, which festival executive director Yuni Hadi says reflects the event's "commitment to the Singapore film community and our wider role within the industry".

She adds: "We're honoured to have the film kick off the festival and play our part in promoting a Singapore film that we can all be proud of.

"We hope that as we continue to grow with our industry, an occasion like this will not be a rarity."

Unlucky Plaza is about a Filipino diner owner who, in hopes of solving his financial woes, takes a drastic step so extreme that it sparks a global media frenzy.

Filipino actor Epy Quizon plays the lead and the cast includes local actors Adrian Pang, Judee Tan, Janice Koh, Shane Mardjuki, Guo Liang and Kwek's actress wife Pamela Oei.

The movie title is said to be a play on Singapore shopping centre Lucky Plaza in Orchard Road, which is known for its businesses that cater to the Filipino community here.

The film made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month in the Discovery section, focusing on directors to watch.

Kwek, 35, says it is "great news" that his film has been selected as the opening film. "It shows that the new festival leadership is genuinely committed to celebrating Singapore cinema," says the director, who previously made the anthology film Sex.Violence.FamilyValues.

The collection of three shorts, which explored Singaporean attitudes to sex, race and other cultural norms, was at first allowed for release in 2012 with an M18 classification.

But a few days before its cinema release, it was banned over alleged racial insults in the dialogue. The ban was lifted last year after a few seconds of speech were overdubbed with music. It was also given a stricter R21 rating.

The festival, which marks its 25th edition this year, was not held the last two years due to staff and financial woes. This year, it will run from Dec 4 to 14 under umbrella event Singapore Media Festival, alongside ScreenSingapore, the Asia Television Forum and Market and the Asian Television Awards.

Other than Ms Yuni, Mr Zhang Wenjie serves as co-festival director and is in charge of programming. Both had served as festival directors in 2009. Besides Unlucky Plaza, the festival team announced yesterday that they have selected Egyptian director Ahmad Abdalla El Sayed Abdelkader, 35, as the Film-maker In Focus.

His latest film Decor, a black-and white psychological drama about a woman struggling to know what she wants, will have its Asian premiere at the festival.

Mr Zhang says: "What sets Abdalla apart is his adoitness in adopting new forms and methods in his film-making, so that each new film from him is an exciting and unexpected fresh discovery. His latest film Decor, which pays homage to the rich heritage of Egyptian cinema, is no exception."

Other films to watch out for at the festival are Singapore-based Malaysian Lee Thean-jeen's Bring Back The Dead and Red Amnesia by acclaimed Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle, 2001).

Lee's film, starring local actress Jesseca Liu and Taiwan's Jacko Chiang, is a horror flick about a devoted mother who faces horrifying consequences when she tries to bring her dead son back to life.

Wang's film, which screened in competition at the Venice International Film Festival this year, follows a retired widow whose life is changed forever when she receives a series of strange, silent telephone calls.

Tickets for the festival go on sale at Sistic at the end of the month. For details, go to www.sgiff.com

This article was first published on October 3, 2014.
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