STOP10: 10 local films to catch in April 2017



The biggest movie star to hit our cinemas this year, has no airs about it, even though it needs a red carpet far bigger than anything seen at a movie premiere. It’s really not difficult to keep it happy on the set, though you have to feed this star a lot more food than the rest of the cast. It is hardly a diva, even though it will not take any media interviews. And lastly, it will gladly pose for pictures with you, but don’t get another movie star into the same picture, because there’s simply only ROOM FOR ONE.


Oh yes, it only speaks Thai. But you don’t need an interpreter. It understands body language. Of course, we are talking about the one and only Pop Aye, the elephantine star of director Kirsten Tan’s debut feature Pop Aye. After scoring at Sundance, it is furiously stomping down the film festival trail. We are ecstatic that the producers have decided not to make audiences in Singapore wait too long for its general release.


Pop Aye leads an April line-up of local films that are artistically accomplished. In addition, April’s STOP10 brings you a total of five Singapore premieres including Pop Aye itself, a chilling mini psycho-thriller on Viddsee, as well as selections from the upcoming Singapore Chinese Film Festival such as the award-winning Seed, as well as Paperhouse and Lullaby.

April also offers a chance to catch the last Chinese studio-era film made in Singapore titled Two Sides of the Bridge (桥的两岸), and meet 70-odd year-old Chen Ge, who is the only surviving director of the film (there were two). If campus stories are your thing, there is also Adiwiraku, an uplifting story about children who can’t speak English properly, taking part in an English choral speaking competition, right inside an ulu part of Kedah, Malaysia.

The film project Lapis Sagu also has a surprise on 4 April. They are launching 3 short films , namely Sanjay by K Rajagopal, The Manifest by Sanif Olek and B.M.T. by Kelvin Tong, made using the stories of 3 winning entries. Eric Khoo's short film was pulled out due to some controversy about portraying foreigners as zombies. And B.M.T. means Beijing, Mumbai, Tampines.

To say the least, April will be a month of diverse experiences.

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Paperboat

Point and Shoot film competition, Audience Choice Award winner
Available for viewing from the nuSTUDIOS Film Productions Facebook page

In the recently-concluded Point and Shoot film competition organised by nuSTUDIOS Film Productions, where students had 55 hours to make a 3-minute short film, Paperboat, one of the entries, did not make the cut as one of the Judges’ Top 10, which were screened at the awards giving ceremony. About a week later, it ruled the internet with over 2000 likes on Facebook and claimed the Audience Choice Award, beating 31 other entries.

Moral of the story is: Don’t fret if your film does not win critical acclaim, because it is about to become a box-office hit.

Paperboat is a tribute to all creative people and writers out there. The film likens a writer to a paperboat, graceful yet vulnerable and struggling to stay afloat. Conceptually beguiling and visually articulate, this film is the Haiku we all need to keep the artist in us alive.

Read more about the film and how you can watch it here.

Disconnected

Viddsee, Singapore Film Channel

Joe is all alone at home, bored and in need of instant gratification. Tumblr comes to his rescue, offering an endless feed of girls in their bathing suits. But that’s not enough, so he clicks open ‘The Strangers Network’ where he gets to chat with random strangers and, if he can, coerce some into a little home-video striptease. After a few failed connections, he finally meets a girl named Amelia. And something strange happens. Rather chilling in fact. Who is Amelia? Is she real? Or is she a prank? Did she agree to do what Joe wanted? Is there nudity? Will she crawl out of the computer screen like Sadako in the Ring? Is she a man?

Watch the film and you will know.

Just another note, no film has ever made Tumblr look so cinematic (not in an exploitative way). This is a first.

Read more about the film and how you can watch it here.

Open doors: Singapore

Viddsee, Singapore Shorts

In some developed countries, the idea of keeping a ‘maid’ in your own home is helplessly anachronistic. Here in Singapore, our record with treatment of domestic workers is still blotched by stories of horrific abuse. Open Doors: Singapore is one of three short films commissioned by the International Organization for Immigration to shed light on this.

Serene, a working professional mum who looks like she’s been on an expensive SKII skin regime, hires Lisa, a domestic worker from the Philippines. Upon arrival, Serene took away Lisa’s passport, work permit and refused to give her a day off. As the film progresses, we see more and more familiar situations such as unreasonable demands and eventually a bloody rude shove. With a young child at home and Serene too busy to recognise what her own behaviour can result in, this film plays out the possibilities that can surprise you – for better or for worse. Made by Singapore’s most viral short-filmmaker, Daniel Yam, it is easy to see why you will want to pass the good word about this video on.

Read more about the film and how you can watch it here.

John Clang

Viddsee, Singapore Shorts

Here’s a Kirsten Tan sampler before the real elephant arrives in the form of her Sundance award-winner, Pop Aye, which will be showing at Golden Village cinemas 13 April onwards. It’s hard to pin down a prototypical Kirsten Tan film because her versatility is remarkable. John Clang is her most recent short film before her debut feature Pop Aye. It is a documentary about John Clang, a critically-acclaimed Singaporean artist and photographer who relocated to New York in the 90s. He is the first photographer to receive the President's Designer of the Year award.

This is a multi-faceted piece of work that is experientially surprising. Kirsten uses mixed medium like photos, old footage, interviews and animation, in this inspection of John’s life, work and philosophy, as well as how he had a near brush with death in his HDB flat when he was 3 years old. The film was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2013 Singapore Short Film Awards.

By the way, John Clang is so-named because he was born Ang Choon Leng and earned his moniker in 1990 while serving in the army, as his name badge read C L Ang.

Read more about the film and how you can watch it here.

Two Sides of the Bridge (桥的两岸)
8 Apr, Sat, 2pm, National Museum of Singapore Gallery Theatre
During Singapore’s golden age of cinema where a total of 267 films were made between 1950 and 1969, not many local Chinese films stood out among the Bujang Lapoks of the era. One film which gained mainstream popularity was Lion City (狮子城), completed in 1960. During the tail end of the film studio era in 1976, another film stood out as a landmark Chinese film - Two Sides of the Bridge (桥的两岸). Produced and directed by two journalists, Chen Ge and Lim Ann, under Chong Gay Theatres, a major local film studio, Two Sides is about a man who leaves Kelantan to come to Singapore in search of love and a brighter future. In the end, the lure of the ‘brighter future’ got the better of him and he ended in some deep money trouble and a run-in with the Singapore law. The film was made for $200,000 and featured a cast of non-professional actors with another journalist, Seen Yei, playing the leading lady.
On 8 April, 18 members of the cast and crew will come together for a rare reunion at the National Museum screening event, probably the first reunion in more than 4 decades!
Read more about the film and how you can watch it here.

Adiwiraku
11 Apr, Tue, 3pm
12 Apr, Wed, 2.30pm
Carnival Cinemas, Shaw Towers, Beach Road
Large group bookings also available
The real story, from which the film Adiwiraku (My Superhero) is based on, takes place in a rural school, SMK Pinang Tunggal, in Kedah. A teacher named Cheryl Ann Fernando, inherits a class of students ridden with their own life and family problems and have trouble speaking in English. In a Dead Poet’s Society sort of way, she earns their trust and inspires them to take part in a district-level choral speaking competition as a way to improve their English. Through her persevering ways, she helps the students overcome their personal odds and takes the chorus from zero to hero (or Superhero).
If you think this film has all the elements to make you cry, you are probably right. Story aside, Malaysia-based Singaporean director, Eric Ong, pulled all the stops to achieve authenticity in the film, including getting the real students whose story this film is based on to play themselves in the movie. This pays off handsomely as the students pull off natural and earnest performances, much better than a professional cast would have done. This film is not just for teachers and students, it’s for the child in everyone of us.

Read more about the film and how you can watch it here.

Pop Aye
Opens 13 Apr, Golden Village cinemas
The elephant in the film Pop Aye has inadvertently become the poster boy of Singapore cinema in the last three months, thanks to director Kirsten Tan’s runaway success, pardon the pun, in the film festival circuit. Written and directed by Kirsten, the film follows a disenchanted architect that happens to bump into his long-lost elephant on the streets of Bangkok. After the fated encounter, the two friends journey across Thailand in search of the farm they grew up in together. With themes of discovery and finding one’s way back home, the film promises to be heartfelt and bittersweet. If anything else, ogling at an elephant on the big screen for an hour and a half can be quite a de-stressing experience!
Shot entirely in Thailand with Thai actors and crew and a grey hairy giant, Pop Aye won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenwriting at Sundance Film Festival in January this year. In fact, it is the first ever Singapore feature film selected to compete and win in what is arguably the largest and most star-studded independent film festival in the US. It also won the VPRO Big Screen Award at International Film Festival Rotterdam in February this year.
Read more about the film and how you can watch it here.

Paperhouse

1 May, Mon, 7pm, National Museum Gallery Theatre
Singapore Chinese Film Festival, Singapore Shorts
Don’t be fooled by the whimsical sounding title of this short film. Eschew thoughts of pastel-coloured dreamscapes. This film takes you to the HDB void deck where a Toaist funeral wake is taking place, and where a painstakingly-crafted paper house, drenched in gaudy colours, sits on the wings of the altar and main funeral wake setup. Paperhouse is an artfully-balanced family drama about how a funeral dishes out the dirty laundry in an extended family.
The film also shows us the alternate reality of Mediacorp actors freed from the dictates of melodramatic TV acting. In other words, more natural la. And speaking of balance, director Ler Jiyuan, who honed his skills on years of TV directing, manages to blend many elements together in this film including drama, cultural enrichment, comedy, morbidity, colours, and really, quite an impressive company of TV actors, including Wang Yu Qing (王昱清), Adam Chen (詹金泉), Zhu Xiufeng (朱秀凤) and others who will make you go ‘I see him on TV all the time but I never really paid attention to his name’.
Read more about the film and how you can watch it here.

Seed
30 Apr, Sun, 7pm, National Museum Gallery Theatre
Singapore Chinese Film Festival, Chinese Shortcuts!

25 year-old director Alvin Lee beat the odds (about 10,000 entries) to win the Best New Director award at the China Short Film Golden Hummingbird Awards, China’s first national-level short film competition. A couple goes to visit a boy whom they donated their dead son’s organs to, in this pensive, and highly-affecting journey of the heart. Still water runs deep in this film, characterised by protracted silent moments and long, meditative takes. The film is sensitive in its treatment of the subject matter and its conversational drift. You almost cannot tell an outsider (of China) made this film. Not bad for a Singaporean who’s only been living in Beijing for 3 years for his degree at the Beijing Film Academy. Even if you are not a fan of glacially-paced dramas, you will be enamoured by the nuanced direction and delicate cinematography.
Read more about the film and how you can watch it here.

Lullaby
1 May, Mon, 7pm, National Museum Gallery Theatre
Singapore Chinese Film Festival, Singapore Shorts

This film gives you the ‘grandmother’ version of Mee Pok Man. Watch the second half of Eric Khoo’s Mee Pok Man for the reference. In fact, just a few days ago, a man died in his sleep while at a coffeeshop in Ang Mo Kio and his friends thought he was napping. Lullaby by Stanley Xu is a lot less dramatic, and a more poetic. Made in collaboration with ‘Honour Singapore’, the given theme was to pay tribute to invisible people around us. Stanley found the answer to this in his own home. It’s a familiar feeling isn’t it? Taking your loved ones for granted? In Lullaby, a grandmother finds solace from her family’s neglect, in her grandson, the only person in the household who has got time for her.  
Read more about the film and how you can watch it here.

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