15 Films you shouldn’t miss at the 32nd Singapore International Film Festival

These are fifteen feature films you shouldn’t miss at the 32nd Singapore International Film Festival which is taking place from November 25th until December 5th, 2021.

About the festival:
The Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is the largest and longest running film event in Singapore. Founded in 1987 by Geoffrey Malone and L. Leland Whitney, the Festival focuses on showcasing international films and providing a global platform for the best of Singapore cinema. Over the decades, it has grown to become an iconic date in the Singapore arts calendar. With its focus on groundbreaking Asian cinema, this prestigious event is known for its dynamic programming and commitment to the development of a vibrant local film culture.

– Selected Films –

24 by Royston Tan – Singapore, Thailand | 2021 – 76 minutes
Section: Singapore Panorama | Southeast Asian Premiere

In the afterlife, a sound recordist lingers in the mortal realm while staying wedded to the profession. Armed with a recorder, a boom mic and a pair of headphones, he silently inserts himself in public and private affairs at uncustomary proximity and records even the slightest drop of water. His ‘presence’ at times incongruous and seemingly obtrusive but other times incapacitated by his spectrality, the recordist’s stolid visits to peculiar sightings, friends and family ponder the reverberations of his passing.

24 is a delicate study of how loss is felt and coped with. Its minimalist camerawork and crisp images shine the spotlight on human expressions and narratives, reaffirming TAN’s knack for crafting mundane stories that resonate. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
December 3rd, 2021 | Friday | Golden Village 1 | 7:00 pm (Sold Out)


Anatomy of Time by Jakrawal Nilthamrong – Thailand, France, Netherland, Singapore | 2021 – 118 minutes – Section: Asian Feature Film Competition – Southeast Asian Premiere

In the political fog of Cold War-era Thailand, a rickshaw driver and an army captain vie for the affections of a clockmaker’s daughter. In the present, she is resigned to spending her days looking after the captain, now a vilified, comatose general.

Following the woman across different periods of history, the elegantly structured film also reveals a higher force lurking in the background: one that leaves objects, landscapes and memories with a new lease of life, while also being painfully indifferent towards trauma. As the narrative coolly brings us through focal points and dead ends, Jakrawal NILTHAMRONG pays obeisance to the workings of time while casting a tender gaze upon those weathered by it. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
December 4th, 2021 | Saturday | Filmgarde Bugis+8 | 7:30 pm


Center Stage by Stanley Kwan – Hong Kong | 2021 – 155 minutes
Section: Milestone | Southeast Asian Premiere

Stanley KWAN reinvents the biopic, tackling the short-lived career and life of “Chinese Greta Garbo” RUAN Lingyu, who was known for her exceptionally realistic performances. Center Stage chronicles Ruan’s rise to stardom in 1930s Shanghai, her relationships with collaborators on set, and her tumultuous love life. The latter became intense fodder for the paparazzi, leading to her suicide at the young age of 24.

Starring the alluring Maggie CHEUNG as the titular character, Center Stage includes imagined re-enactments alongside historical footage, with behind-the-scenes commentary from the cast including Tony LEUNG Ka-fai and Carina LAU. The rediscovery and posthumous celebration of a screen legend in this gorgeous restoration is not to be missed. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
November 27th, 2021 | Saturday | Golden Village 6 | 8:45 pm


History of Ha by Lav Diaz – Philippines | 2021 – 276 minutes
Section: Foreground – Southeast Asian Premiere

In 1957, famed ventriloquist Hernando returns home from an international tour to find his fiancée, out of poverty, married to another. His country, too, is at a crossroads: the Filipino president has suddenly died, and Hernando’s uprising of communist peasants has been quelled. Speaking through his irreverent puppet Ha, the former political prisoner joins a pious nun, striving sex worker and teen boy as they venture to an island where gold and mortal danger abound.

A love letter to bodabil, the Philippines’ slapstick form of vaudeville, History of Ha also asks if popular entertainment is another opiate of the masses. Lav DIAZ affirms the power of direct action over art, even as he paints a striking portrait of an indomitable patriot. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
November 27th, 2021 | Saturday | Oldham Theatre | 1:30 pm


In Front of your face by Hong Sang-soo – South Korea | 2021 – 85 minutes
Section: Foreground – Southeast Asian Premiere

After spending years in the United States, former actress Sangok returns to Korea to meet a local film director. There, she reconnects with family members and her past home, only to discover how they have changed from her memories during her absence. Meanwhile, the director wishes for Sangok to be in his new film—but she cannot oblige due to a deeply held secret. Through encounters and conversations, the past and present converge as Sangok ruminates on her life.

Resuming his signature spare yet contemplative directorial style, HONG Sang-soo once again offers up a compelling study of the internal dilemmas of women and their interactions in daily life. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
November 26th, 2021 | Friday | Filmgrade Bugis+8 | 9:30 pm (Selling Fast!)


Inside the red brick wall by Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers – Hong Kong | 2021 – 88 minutes
Section: Domain – Singapore Premiere

On 17 November 2019, the police laid siege to protestors at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in a blockade lasting nearly two weeks. Beleaguered students fought teargas with makeshift whiteboard shields, hoping to escape and return home to safety.

With the media barred from on-site access, an anonymous collective films from within the campus, recording the teenage protesters’ hopes and distress. The camera captures their acts of “lethal faith”—as described by one student—seen as their only defence against the police’s lethal weapons. Named best film at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards, this gut-wrenching documentary attests to the power of democratic filmmaking as a mode of unbearable, yet necessary, witness. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
November 29th, 2021 | Monday | Filmgarde Bugis+8 | 8:30 pm (Sold Out!)


Memoria by Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Colombia, Thailand, UK, Mexico, France, Germany, Qatar | 2021 – 136 minutes – Section: Milestone – Southeast Asian Premiere

Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL has captivated many with his spacious, sonic cinema—and his latest work, set in faraway Colombia, is no different. Car alarms go off for no reason, and a tunnelling project turns up grisly human remains. Jessica, played by the effortlessly chameleonic Tilda SWINTON, is woken at daybreak by a dull bang. Searching for the sound’s origins, she is terrified but allured.

With Memoria, WEERASETHAKUL proves himself again as an unmatched architect of light and sound. Memories ripen and disperse at their own pace, and elements from past works receive second lives. Like its wakeful protagonist, one is not only entranced by his unbordered universe, but joins it in a profound communion. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
November 27th, 2021 | Saturday | Filmgarde Bugis+8 | 6:30 pm (Sold Out)
December 1st, 2021 | Wednesday | Filmgarde Bugis+8 | 7:00 pm (Sold Out)


Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle by Arthur Harari – France, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Cambodia | 2021 – 167 minutes – Section: Foreground – Southeast Asian Premiere

December 1944: the Japanese Empire’s denouement draws near. On the Philippine island of Lubang, Japanese forces hold out on one of its final strongholds. Among them is Hiroo ONODA, a soldier fresh off the boat. Trained in the art of guerrilla warfare, Onoda is an intelligence officer tasked with sabotaging the island’s airstrip to hamper an American invasion. However, his superiors are more concerned with evading threats rather than facing them. Come the invasion, Onoda leads three men to the hills, with orders to stay and fight.

Onoda, driven by an obstinate sense of duty, continues the battle for three decades despite the official surrender of Japan. Based on actual events, Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle is an epic portrait of nationalist loyalty and perseverance. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
November 29th, 2021 | Monday | Filmgarde Bugis+3 | 7:00 pm (Sold Out)


Pebbles by P.S Vinothraj – India | 2021 – 74 minutes
Section: Asian Feature Film Competition – Southeast Asian Premiere

Produced by Indian superstar Nayanthara, Pebbles charts a turbulent afternoon spent by a boy with his alcoholic father. Set in Madurai’s scorching deserts, the film follows the father as he drags his son between villages to search for his wife, who may be fleeing from his abuse. But the boy simply wants to bring his infant sister some new toys. As the father storms the landscape, starting fights with other hot-headed men, will the boy retain his innocence?

An allegory for a country worn out by a tired machismo’s impotent ragings, P.S. VINOTHRAJ’s Tiger Award-winning film—inspired by his sister’s life—brings an urgency to confronting toxic masculinity as a comprehensive social ill. Unfolding with swift narrative economy and stunning camerawork, including a masterfully staged nine-minute tracking shot, Pebbles announces the arrival of a major cinematic voice. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
November 28th, 2021 | Sunday | Filmgarde Bugis+3 | 7:00 pm


The Edge of Daybreak by Taiki Sakpisit – Thailand, Switzerland | 2021 – 115 minutes
Section: Undercurrent – Southeast Asian Premiere

A woman loses her husband after a fateful meal. A young girl drowns on the night of a full moon. Following a meditative dream logic that loops delicately between the Thammasat massacre of 1976 and the military coup d’état of 2006, a family is rudely awakened to the past’s hold on their present lives. For them, sleep brings little respite.

In The Edge of Daybreak, Taiki SAKPISIT has masterfully constructed a tormented, dilapidated mansion where both historical and personal trauma reside and refuse to be dislodged. Shot in gorgeous monochrome with close-ups that dare to confront the feral and the putrefying, this tale of a wound that persists for generations is a sensuous stirring to the nightmare of history. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
December 2nd, 2021 | Thursday | Golden Village 4 | 7:00 pm (Sold Out)


The Flame by Arfan Sabran – Indonesia, Qatar | 2021 – 76 minutes
Section: Standpoint – Singapore Premiere

In the 1990s, over one million hectares of rainforest were destroyed in Central Kalimantan on the island of Borneo for the notorious Mega Rice Project, resulting in calamitous ecological consequences. Today, fighting against corporate interests, 77-year-old Dayak activist Iber DJAMAL relentlessly pursues legal rights to some 100 hectares of the remaining Barasak ancestral forest that the Pilang Village have been inhabiting for generations.

Combining a sincere observational style with sobering visuals and atmospheric audio, The Flame bears witness to Iber’s cause and his passionate hope that future generations would maintain an intimate connection with their customs and their land—and keep protecting what rightly belongs to them. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
December 5th, 2021 | Sunday | National Museum Singapore | 1:00 pm (Sold Out)


Ushiku by Thomas Ash – Japan | 2021 – 87 minutes
Section: Standpoint – Southeast Asian Premiere

Within the confines of Ushiku, one of Japan’s largest immigration centres, time slows down for foreign detainees held in indefinite detention for years. The individuals featured in Thomas ASH’s secretly recorded interviews rely on faith, humour, artistic expression and visits from loved ones to cope with their inhumane physical and psychological treatment. And in hopes of being granted temporary release, they risk their life and health with repeated hunger strikes.

Set against the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic and the impending spectacle of the Tokyo Olympics, Ushiku unflinchingly reveals the injustices asylum-seeking refugees experience—and their continued disenfranchisement even upon release—at the hands of Japan’s immigration policies. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
December 4th, 2021 | Saturday | Filmgarde Bugis+3 | 1:00 pm


Whether the Weather is Fine by Carlo Francisco Manatad – Philippines, France, Singapore, Indonesia, Germany, Qatar | 2021 – 105 minutes – Section: Asian Feature Film Competition | Southeast Asian Premiere

Hearing about an impending storm in the wake of a deadly typhoon, Miguel looks for his missing mother and friend to escape on the next ship to Manila. Amidst the stony rubbish and strewn bodies in the wasteland they are fleeing, the trio begin to see their world grow increasingly absurd, magical and stupefying.

Set in the director’s hometown of Tacloban, a city practically decimated by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, Carlo Francisco MANATAD’s debut feature subverts the disaster genre to reveal the nervous humour bubbling beneath a tragedy. Apocalyptic visuals reminiscent of Children of Men are awash with spirituality and satire. In this moving dilemma between staying and leaving, we are left laughing with our eyes wet. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Dates:
November 26th, 2021 | Friday | Filmgarde Bugis+ 7 | 9:30 pm (Sold Out)
December 1st, 2021 | Wednesday | Filmgarde Bugis+ 6 | 8:45 pm


White Building by Kavich Neang – Cambodia, France, China, Qatar | 2021 – 90 minutes
Section: Asian Feature Film Competition – Southeast Asian Premiere

The White Building, built in 1963, is a landmark tenement in the middle of Phnom Penh, inhabited by many Cambodian artists post-Khmer Rouge. In young Cambodian filmmaker Kavich NEANG’s fictional take on the real-life demolition of the White Building, where he was raised, 20-year-old Samnang and his friends practise their dance routines and dream of television contests.

When they receive news of their lifelong home’s impending demolition, Samnang must suddenly reckon with multiple destabilisations all at once—from his neighbours’ disagreements on the government’s compensation offers, to his best friend’s departure from the country. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
November 28th, 2021 | Sunday | Filmgarde Bugis+8 | 8:45 pm


Yuni by Kamila Andini – Indonesia, Singapore, France, Australia | 2021 – 95 minutes
Section: Asian Feature Film Competition – Singapore Premiere

Set in an Indonesian town, the film follows Yuni—a bright female high-schooler with an obsession for everything purple. At the threshold of adulthood, she starts receiving marriage proposals, which is customary of her community. But Yuni’s teenage preoccupations, from college aspirations to romantic rendezvous, render marriage at this age ill-fitting. As proposals come one after another and societal expectations multiply, her fate is left to onerous decisions that will irreversibly shape her future.

A character study packed with poetic moments of interpersonal intimacy, Yuni approaches gender relations with an unrivalled earnestness that makes its indictment of gender injustice a poignant cinematic marvel. (SGIFF 2021)

Screening Date:
November 30th, 2021 | Tuesday | Filmgarde Bugis+8 | 8:40 pm (Sold Out)


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