SGIFF makes a strong comeback

SGIFF makes a strong comeback
Cinema still: The Crossing

The Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is back. And it is looking good.

Ticket sales are up. The percentage of unsold tickets are down. The slate of films was interesting and, best of all, appropriate to our region.

Snafus of the kind that plagued the previous 24th edition were absent. Held in 2011, the hiccups and resulting complaints were the straw that broke the back of the festival, laying it to rest until this year.

And the judgment of the online community about the festival, which closed last Sunday, has been almost all positive.

A typical comment from the SGIFF's Facebook page, from film-maker Kirsten Tan, reads: "You guys ran a tight ship. Well done."

Here are the numbers: This year, 10,000 tickets were sold, or roughly 60 per cent of the nearly 17,000 available.

In the 24th edition in 2011, the ticket take-up rate was 47 per cent; the year before, it was 37 per cent.

And on a more personal note, the press could not have dealt with a more professional and prompt team. Headed by executive director Yuni Hadi, the group, despite juggling the hundreds of tasks that these mammoth events generate, made media relations run like clockwork.

It held numerous advance screenings so the press could get excited about the films, followed up with press conferences and arranged interviews with film-makers. Unless you have worked with other less well-prepared crews, you have no idea how welcome this is.

All this, without reducing the number of films - 147 this year, compared with 144 in 2011 - and with the addition of new venues.

There was scepticism when the festival's resuscitation was announced last year and, yes, some of it came from me.

The reborn festival would be partnered with the government-backed Singapore Media Festival and its related business events, held roughly simultaneously.

There would be several resource-sharing benefits to the partnership, but could the festival that sprang from the grassroots and ran for over two decades as a scrappy independent, often at odds with the authorities for pushing censorship boundaries, keep its fierce spirit?

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