'Pieces-de-Resistance' - Putting together 13 films for 'Singular Screens'


Singular Screens, a special film programme under the Singapore International Festival of Arts opens today with A Man of Integrity (Lerd) (pictured below) by Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof. As a scathing critique on the inherent corruption in contemporary Iranian society, the film tells the story about a man who lives in a simple life tending to his goldfish farm in northern Iran, but is threatened by the growing power of corruption. Banned in Iran, it won the 2017 Un Certain Regard prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the Best Director (International) and Best Actor (International) at the 54th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival.


This film leads a line-up of 13 new films that seeks to respond to the general sentiment of the Festival programming with ideas revolving around the notion of resistance and the experience of the individual. These films include one Asian premiere (Madeline's Madeline) and 12 Singapore premieres. Curated by Asian Film Archive, SIFA 2018 invites film and arts lovers to embark on cinematic adventures that celebrate independent voices across the world and power of the individual.
We spoke to Thong Kay Wee, Outreach Executive of the Asian Film Archive, about how he and his team put together this selection of films.

The themes found in Singular Screens include resistance and the individual. What kind of resistance were you looking for in the films selected?
As a programme partner for Singapore International Festival of Arts 2018, AFA wanted to develop a line-up of cinematic works which will align with the overall tone of the festival.
The notion of resistance could refer to just and dramatic heroism or the daily toll and quiet internal struggles. Cinema as a medium allows for immersion and imagination, granting avenues to project aspirations amid larger circumstances. This prospect of introspection and reinvigoration is what we hope people will experience with each film screening. This idea of resistance is also reflected in the risk-taking and ingenuity of filmmaking. I am drawn to films that repel from formulaic cinematic languages and instead, reveal innovative ambition in evoking further cerebral and/or visceral triggers. This is how I have illustrated “singularity” in film curation.
Was it a pre-requisite for the selected films to have never been premiered in Singapore before?   

Yes, it was a pre-requisite for the films to be new and never screened in Singapore before.
How long was the curation process and how many films did you screen through before selecting the films that would be shown?   

I screened through over 40 film titles produced in 2017 and 2018 before arriving at a final selection of films for this programme.
What were the challenges you faced in the curation of ‘Singular Screens’?  

As we wanted to feature a strong line-up of films which have never been premiered in Singapore before, we had to persuade filmmakers and distributors to put faith in our programme and the festival, and to grant us screening rights. As an international programme based in Singapore curated by AFA, I felt that it was essential for ‘Singular Screens’ to have a good amount of Asian film representation. More importantly, the programme needed to speak to and illuminate different audiences.   

If you had to pick three personal film favourites, what would they be and why?   

My three personal films favourites are ‘Madeline’s Madeline’, ‘Arabia’ and ‘I’ve Got A Little Problem’.

Madeline's Madeline

A critics’ darling of Sundance and Berlinale this year, we are very proud to secure the film's Asian premiere in Singapore at this programme. We hope that the tale of artistic manipulation and experimental theatre sits well within the context of a festival focused on the performing arts. This spellbinding film can be seen as an amalgamation of visceral and conceptual possibilities in both theatre and cinema, possessing a nice balance of experimentation and emotionally-driven narration. This film is not your everyday American indie Sundance film.

Arabia

Regarded by many critics as one of the best films in 2017, this devastating film of harsh industrial landscapes and soothing heart-wrenching soundscapes brings solace to the tale of anonymity in nomadic fashion. We lay witness, quietly and solemnly, to the visualisation of factory worker Cristiano's journal as he allows us to glimpse into his wealth of emotional depth. This is an epic that does not require big gestures.

I've Got A Little Problem

Ren Hang's suicide shook the photography and arts world in 2017 and this mid-length documentary is possibly the best behind-the-scenes exposé into the young maverick's inner turmoil. Politics and personal demons seem to meld into one fascinating kaleidoscope of visuals. Perhaps, like the man, the film takes on the persona of Ren Hang's infectious energy and spiralling frenzied condition. There is no better cinematic tribute to a man who lives and breathes through images.  

About AFA

The Asian Film Archive (AFA) aspires to be a hub for the Asian film community, contributing to culture, scholarship and industry through organised screenings, educational and cultural programmes that open and enrich new intellectual, educational and creative spaces, to promote a wider critical appreciation of this art form.

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