India wins 2 years in a row at the SGIFF Silver Screen Awards with 'The Fourth Direction'

Producer of winning film 'The Fourth Direction'. Kartikeya Singh, receives the prize from Brilliante Mendoza and Ivy Ho

The 26th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) announced its winners of the Silver Screen Awards at The MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands yesterday.

This year saw 12 awards being presented, with the two crowd-favourite competitions – Asian Feature Film Competition and the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition being presented nine awards altogether.
'The Fourth Direction'

Indian film 'The Fourth Direction', the sophomore feature by Gurvinder Singh emerged as the Best Film of the Asian Feature Film Competition. Set during the historical conflict between Sikh separatists and the military, the film impressed the jury with its ‘masterful execution’ which makes the audience ‘experience the fear and tension of the era and how the political situation is influencing the life of this family.’ This is India's second win at the Silver Screen Awards Asian Feature Film competition after 'Court' last year.

Israeli film 'Tikkun' by Avishai Sivan was given Special Mention by the jury for the director’s ability to ‘guide us seamlessly through the complexities of the character’s spiritual journey’ as it discusses the nature of sexuality, life and death.

Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi won the Best Director for 'Happy Hour', his first fiction film in three years, which offers an intimate gaze into a close group of friends as they pass through the joys and tribulations that mid-life offers to them.
'Happy Hour'

Turkish cast Taha Tegin Özdemir, Yakup Özgür Kurtaal and Ömer Uluç were also awarded Best Performance for their roles in Snow Pirates by Faruk Kacihafizoğlu. Set against the 1980 coup d’état in Turkey, the film tells the story of three teenage friends who spent their school holidays trying to find coal for warmth against all odds amidst sharing their personal stories and dreams.

The award winners of the Asian Feature Film Competition are selected by a jury panel, headed by Brilliante Mendoza, one of the most important and prominent filmmakers of Philippines cinema today. His award-winning debut film which won the Golden Leopard Award at the 2005 Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, paved the way for the rise of alternative cinema in the Philippines. Other jury members include Managing Director and Producer of Irresistible Films Ivy Ho, member of the European Film Academy Karel Och and South Korean producer, Oh Jung-wan.

The Fourth Direction will be re-screened at the National Museum of Singapore today, the last day of the SGIFF, together with the winning film of the Audience Choice Award, Burmese film 'Sailing on a sinking sea'.

In the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition, 'The Fox Exploits the Tiger’s Might' was awarded Best Southeast Asian Short Film. The Indonesian film presented the story of two pre-teen boys who discover the relation between power and sex amid their burgeoning sexuality and the jury found it thought-provoking on issues of race and repression, with its ‘strong visual language and a deft use of sexual tension’.

The film also won Best Director for Lucky Kuswandi (above), one of Indonesia’s most exciting young directors. The jury was impressed by his ‘strong direction’ which was evident in the cast’s performance, and his success in introducing the audience to the many eclectic characters while ‘telling a story that is layered, provocative and entertaining at the same time.’

Singaporean filmmaker Gladys Ng (below) also won the Best Singapore Short Film for My Father After Dinner, which shares the nuances of Asian familial love through the story of a father who prepares dinner while waiting for his children to return home. The jury liked Ng’s acutely observant and fresh take on the everyday life and saw the short film as an ‘honest and heart-warming portrait of a slice of life in Singapore’.
Thai film Ferris Wheel by Phuttiphong Aroonpeng was given Special Mention by the jury for how this powerful and urgent story about a mother and child seeking refuge across the border ‘inspires empathy for the experiences of illegal migrants through the point of view of the characters’.

The jury head for this year’s Southeast Asian Short Film Competition is Boo Junfeng. He is a well-known local filmmaker who first made his mark on SGIFF when he won Best Film and Special Achievement Award for his debut short film – A Family Portrait 10 years ago. Other jury members include Malaysian actress and filmmaker Sharifah Amani, and Chairman of the Association of Indonesian Film Producers, Sheila Timothy.  

The jury also shared that all the films shortlisted for this year’s Southeast Asian Short Film Competition ‘had something the filmmakers wanted to say about the cultures, societies and the world they live in. The diversity of the perspectives and genres makes the selection this year a very interesting one.’

Participants of the Youth Jury & Critics Programme, an SGIFF initiative to nurture critical cinema writers for the region, also selected this year’s Youth Jury Prize for the best Southeast Asian short film, which was presented to Cambodian film Three Wheels by Kavich Neang. It features a tuk-tuk driver, who was reminded of his former lover from the days before Khmer Rouge rule, and the last request from his wife before he acts to move out of the family home. The Youth Jury liked how the short film ‘silently weaves through the lives of its modest characters’ and gives a face to these characters and ‘draws us closer to them’.

In recognition of his lifelong dedication and contribution to cinema, acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf (above) received the Honorary Award from Kim Ji-Seok, founding member of Busan International Film Festival and SGIFF’s International Advisory Board member, and Yuni Hadi, Executive Director of SGIFF. Internationally acclaimed actress and producer Michelle Yeoh (below) was also conferred the Cinema Legend Award, which recognises Asian actors and their outstanding achievements in bringing Asia’s story to life on screen. 
The Most Promising Project of the Southeast Asian Film Lab, an SGIFF initiative to nurture the future of Southeast Asian filmmaking, was also awarded this evening to one of the region’s emerging filmmakers, He Shuming (below) from Singapore. His project A-Joom-Ma (Auntie) tells the story of a Korean drama-obsessed widow who learns to find her way home after getting lost on her first trip abroad in Seoul. This was awarded after a six-day story development lab attended by 11 young talents and a pitch in front of an industry jury including Terence Chang and Cora Yim, Vice President for Chinese Movie & Entertainment Channels at FOX International Channels. The jury shared that the project ‘strikes a chord across cultures through a relatable character that is crafted in a personal and very familiar manner’ and they hope this ‘will take the Southeast Asian experience beyond our shores’.
The Silver Screen Awards saw a total of 10 feature films and 20 short films, including four Singapore short films, vying for the awards. The glittering red carpet affair was also graced by Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel and saw a surprise appearance by international icon David Beckham, who co-presented the award for Asian Feature Film – Best Director with Marina Bay Sands President and Chief Executive Officer Mr. George Tanasijevich. 

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