2015 Singapore movie guide

Cinema Still: As you were

Singapore's Golden Jubilee is the theme for a few films being released next year, among them 7 Letters, a compendium of works from prominent directors, and the historical drama 1965.

But there are also non-Golden-Jubilee-themed movies. Producer mm2, for example, continues to make crowd-pleasers (Royston Tan's dramacomedy 3688), while comedy king Jack Neo returns with another of his Ah Boys comedies (Ah Boys To Men 3: Frogmen).

They are among more than 20 local releases, up from 13 this year.

The resurgent Singapore International Film Festival means that many of the films that will be opening in theatres next year will have premiered this year.

Good news if you missed out on the sold-out screenings at the film festival: A few of these, such as Ken Kwek's thriller Unlucky Plaza and Han Yew Kwang's sex comedy Rubbers, will likely get a release in a downtown cinema.

Others, such as 03-Flats and As You Were from film-maker collective 13 Little Pictures, are likely to have screenings in niche theatres such as the Arts House and the National Museum.

And on the subject of niche halls, new arthouse theatre The Projector should be open next year at Golden Mile Tower, providing more space for speciality film screenings.

Another highlight next year: There seems to be more films in English than in the previous few years. This year, there was only one major film in English, the horror flick Afterimages.

Next year, the period piece 1965 is in English, as is Unlucky Plaza. Good portions of the omnibus 7 Letters, Eric Khoo's sultry In The Room and the long-awaited drama Apprentice from Boo Junfeng are also in English.

The horror drama The Faith Of Anna Waters from Kelvin Tong is in the language of course, because it was made in Singapore primarily for international markets. Ditto Agent 47, the Hollywood production that was partly shot here. Both will be released next year.

Of course, coming to a cinema near you next year is Lang Tong, Sam Loh's sexy thriller that quickly sold out at the film festival this year.

It will be interesting to see if curiosity about the movie peaked during the festival because of news coverage that fixated on actress and Miss World runner-up Angeline Yap's steamy love scene, or if the film's appeal rests on something more sustainable.

Dates and information are subject to change.

AH BOYS TO MEN 3: FROGMEN

Director: Jack Neo

Stars: Joshua Tan, Tosh Zhang, Wang Weiliang, Maxi Lim and Charlie Goh What: The familiar cast of recruits from Jack Neo's box office two-parter hit Ah Boys To Men (2012 and 2013) are back (right), except they are now part of the famously tough Naval Diving Unit.

When: Feb 19

APPRENTICE

Director: Boo Junfeng Stars: Firdaus Rahman, Wan Hanafi Su and Mastura Ahmad

What: Boo, who helmed the acclaimed 2010 comingof-age drama Sandcastle, takes on the thorny moral issue of capital punishment in his second feature. A young prison officer strikes up a friendship with an older colleague, who turns out to be the executioner. The younger man has to decide: Should he train under his friend, a man who puts others to death?

When: Third quarter

03-FLATS

Director: Lei Yuan Bin

What: A documentary made as part of a larger study on the idea of domesticity in public housing, this unexpectedly moving work (above) sold out quickly at this year's Singapore International Film Festival. It quietly observes three single women, each living alone, as they go about their lives. The result is a moving portrait of what it means to make a home in modern-day Singapore.

When:Second half of the year

19650

Director: Randy Ang

Stars: Joanne Peh, Qi Yuwu (above), Lim Kay Tong and Nicole Seah

What: Made to commemorate Singapore's 50 years of independence, the film tells the stories of immigrants and natives during the time leading up to Singapore's independence in the titular year. It is said to portray the fragility of racial harmony. When it was announced that Lim would play the role of founding minister Lee Kuan Yew here, the public and film industry players expressed their approval.

When: Late July or early August

3688

Director: Royston Tan

Stars: Joi Chua, Liu Lingling, Shigga Shay and Michael Tan What: This is director Tan's first feature film in seven years, since he made 12 Lotus (2008). Making her acting debut, Chua plays a parking attendant named Fei Fei who dreams of becoming a singer like her idol, Taiwanese legendary star Fong Fei-fei.

When: June

7 LETTERS

Directors: Boo Junfeng, Eric Khoo, K. Rajagopal, Jack Neo, Tan Pin Pin, Royston Tan and Kelvin Tong

Stars: To be confirmed

What: Not much is known about casting because this project is still in the early stages of production. Created by seven directors to mark the nation's 50th birthday, it will comprise seven films, each expressing the film-maker's idea of the Singapore identity, past and present.

When: July

A YELLOW BIRD

Director: K. Rajagopal

Stars: Sivakumar Palakrishnan (above)

What: In this drama, a man returns home after eight years in prison, but finds that he is unable to shake off his past. Rajagopal, also part of the team making the 7 Letters anthology, won acclaim when his short films won the Singapore International Film Festival's Short Film Awards Special Jury Prize in three consecutive years - Can't Sleep Tonight (1995), The Glare (1996) and Absence (1997).

When: Late next year

AS YOU WERE

Director: Liao Jiekai

Stars: Jerome Chee, Eshley Gao, Josh Lai and Cheryl Tan What: This work (above) made its Asian premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival and comes from the 13 Little Pictures label. Through the relationship of young lovers Guohui and Peiling, it explores the emotional echoes of Singapore places, in particular St John's Island, which has been used as a quarantine centre, prison and drug rehabilitation centre.

When:Second half of the year

BRING BACK THE DEAD

Director: Lee Thean-jeen

Stars: Jesseca Liu (above), Jacko Chiang and Liu Lingling What: In this horror flick, a grieving mother

(Jesseca Liu) asks her mystical former caregiver (Liu Lingling) for help in bringing her dead son back to life. For a while, the plan seems to work and she gets to spend time with his soul. Then horrible things start to happen around the household.

When: Jan 8

CHENNAI SINGAPORE

Director: Abbas Akbar

Stars: Sathya, Ashish Vidyarthi and Dharbuka Shiva

What: This Tamil romantic comedy follows a struggling film-maker named Haresh, who travels from India to Singapore to source for funds for his dream movie project. He meets an investor who agrees to finance the work, but only if the director can first force himself to fall in love with a girl and put that real-life experience into the script.

When: June

IMPOSSIBLE

Directors: Gilbert Chan and Vincent Tee

Stars: To be confirmed

What: Billed as "Singapore's first martial arts action comedy", this film is about a breakdancer named Kit who discovers by accident that he has a talent for martial arts. He saves a nightclub manager from getting attacked by a mob and, in return, the manager takes him under his wing.

When: December

IN THE ROOM

Director: Eric Khoo

Stars: Josie Ho, George Young, Daniel Jenkins, Koh Boon Pin, Aeaw and Shuo Nishino

What: Eros and history are intertwined in this film, award-winning director Khoo's statement about changing cultural and sexual mores in Singapore. The work is dedicated to the late writer Damien Sin, who wrote Khoo's pivotal first feature, the macabre drama Mee Pok Man (1995)

When:To be confirmed

KING OF MAHJONG

Director: Adrian Teh

Stars: Chapman To, Mark Lee and Michelle Ye

What: This comedy (left) revolves around a long feud between two top masters of mahjong. Huang (Lee) challenges Fatt (To) to a final showdown in a major mahjong competition, but Fatt declines as he wants to live a quiet, nondescript life. To force him to join the contest, Huang plans the kidnapping of Fatt's wife (Ye).

When: Feb 19

LANG TONG

Director: Sam Loh

Cast: Angeline Yap, William Lawandi and Vivienne Tseng (above)

What: Veteran TV director Loh (Code Of Law, 2012) makes his second feature film here with a murder thriller that draws inspiration from Takashi Miike's Audition (1999) and Fruit

Chan's horror movie Dumplings (2004). It tells the story of a beautiful girl named Li Er (Yap), who starts an affair with her elder sister Li Ling's (Tseng) lover, Zach (Lawandi). Li Er then tries to convince Zach to help her murder Li Ling.

When: To be confirmed

LITTLE PEOPLE, BIG DREAMS

Director: Mak C.K.

What: This fascinating and somewhat troubling documentary (right) about a dwarf theme park in China sold out quickly at the Singapore International Film Festival. But the good news is, its commissioning body, Channel NewsAsia, will telecast it in March. Mak aims his lens at both performers and visitors at the World Eco Garden of Butterflies and The Dwarf Empire and finds a world far bigger and more interesting than most would imagine.

When:March 1 on Channel NewsAsia

LONG LONG TIME AGO

Director: Jack Neo

Stars: Not yet cast

What: This $6-million two-parter celebrating Singapore's 50th birthday is centred on the lives of a single-parent family, following them from their kampung days in 1965 to their new way of life in modern-day Housing Board flats. Neo will likely open casting calls for the film next month and start production in May.

When: Split into two parts, the first half is targeted for a release at the end of next year, while the second half will be out in Chinese New Year 2016

MS J CONTEMPLATES HER CHOICE

Director: Jason Lai

Stars: Kit Chan (above left), Bobby Tonelli and Xiang Yun (above right) What: Singer Kit Chan makes her leading-lady debut in this feature, the first from Lai, a film-maker with well-received shorts on his resume. She plays a DJ at the mercy of a sadistic killer who finds pleasure in playing mind games with her.

When: First quarter

OUR SISTER MAMBO

Director: Ho Wi Ding Cast: Moses Lim, Michelle Chong, Siti Khalijah Zainal and Judee Tan

What: This is a passion project for Cathay, and in particular Ms Meileen Choo, the executive director of Cathay Organisation, and is released to mark the storied cinema exhibition and distribution chain's 80th anniversary. Written by playwright Michael Chiang, it recalls the heyday of Cathay's film-making period of the 1950s and 1960s, when it made classics such as comedy-drama Our Sister Hedy (1957).

When: July 15

RUBBERS

Director: Han Yew Kwang

Stars: Yeo Yann Yann, Julian Hee, Alaric Tay (far right), Marcus Chin and Oon Shu An (right)

What: This raunchy comedy is intercut with three separate stories that all revolve around condoms and sex. It premiered at the Singapore International Film Festival earlier this month, where its screening was sold out.

When: April 30

SINARAN

Director: Osman Ali

Stars: Lisa Surihanie, Evan Sanders, Izara Aishah, Nadiah M. Din and Syarif Sleeq

What: In this Malay-language musical, a first-year college student named Shila finds romance with an aspiring television producer, but their relationship is tested when their jealous "friends" attempt to sabotage them. Set against the music of Malaysian pop singer Sheila Majid (who will likely make a cameo as herself), Sinaran - which means "ray of light" in Malay - will be a sunny work about friendship, love and trust.

When: Second quarter

SNAKESKIN

Director: Daniel Hui Stars: Noraishah Abu Bakar, Hey Mun Cheok, Ishvinder Singh, Vicki Yang and Lim Lung Chieh

What: The sole survivor of an apocalypse in 2066 mulls over and narrates video footage shot in 2014 Singapore. This Singapore-Portugal production, billed as a "science-fiction documentary", offers a critical examination of Singapore's recent history. The work by Hui, from 13 Little Pictures collective, has been winning acclaim at festivals. It is likely to be shown here at a smaller venue, along with others from the same stable - As You Were and 03-Flats.

When: To be confirmed

STANDING IN STILL WATER

Director: Ric Aw

Stars: Dawn Yeoh, Teo Boon Seong, Remus Teng and Edward Choy

What: This revolves around four damaged individuals at a reservoir: a crippled young lady who is on the path to recovery, a man who harbours a secret in the reservoir, a man

who cannot get over the death of his daughter, and a young father trying to reach out to his autistic son.

When: End of the year

THE FAITH OF ANNA WATERS

Director: Kelvin Tong

Stars: Matthew Settle (above left), Elizabeth Rice (above right), Pamelyn Chee, Adrian Pang, Jaymee Ong and Tan Kheng Hua

What: Shot in various locations around Singapore and featuring a multinational cast, this horror drama sees Jamie Waters (Rice) travel from Seattle to Singapore to investigate the suicide of her sister Anna. Her actions unleash forces beyond anything she has ever seen.

When: Last quarter

UNLUCKY PLAZA

Director: Ken Kwek

Stars: Jeffrey Quizon (above), Adrian Pang, Judee Tan, Shane Mardjuki, Guo Liang and Janice Koh

What: Selected as the opening film of the Singapore International Film Festival, this highly anticipated first full-length feature from writer-director Kwek blends thriller elements and social satire. A Filipino man is driven to his wits' end when a food poisoning case shuts down his Lucky Plaza restaurant. Along the way, he meets a scamming property agent, a slick motivational speaker, a philandering pastor and a gangster with a man-purse.

When: April 16


This article was first published on December 24, 2014.
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