15 Feature films you shouldn’t miss at the 33rd Singapore International Film Festival

These are fifteen feature films you shouldn’t miss at the Singapore International Film Festival which will take place from November 24 until December 4, 2022.

#LookAtMe by Ken Kwek – Singapore | 2022 – 108 minut

Sean attends a church service and brings along his gay twin Ricky. After lampooning its pastor online for homophobia, Sean finds himself ensnared in severe defamation charges. The full force of law and order is brought down on him and his happy-go-lucky family—situations escalate breathlessly, wedging them deeper in an infernal place. (SGIFF 2022)

A Tale of Filipino Violence by Lav Diaz – Philippines | 2022 – 412 minutes

A feudal heir struggles with his family’s history of exploitation and political opportunism. As the state seeks to monopolise their business, he is torn between securing his workers’ future and cooperating with Marcos’s regime. Meanwhile, his brother-in-law secretly recruits the workers to the rebel cause, drawing the military’s attention, whose presence on the estate triggers recollections of long-buried secrets. (SGIFF 2022)


Absent Smile by Lavender Chang, John Clang – Singapore | 2022 – 80 minutes

John Clang has been based in New York since his early twenties. He returns intermittently to visit his elderly parents, brings them on holidays and calls them frequently, but the pain of separation is still a lot to bear for the closely knit family. On a parallel tangent, candid portrait photography sessions of various families, where kin overseas partake live over webcam, record the precious, heartfelt moments of reconnecting with loved ones. (SGIFF 2022)


Baby Queen by Lei Yuan Bin – Singapore | 2022 – 61 minutes

With her striking Teochew opera-inspired makeup, Opera Tang has been making waves on the local drag scene since her debut in 2020. Through intimate vignettes of Opera’s personal life, the film chronicles her queer journey: from coming-out as a fledgling drag queen, falling in love, competing in drag pageants, to dressing up her supportive and charming 90-year-old grandma in drag. (SGIFF 2022)


Divine Factory by Joseph Mangat – Philippines, USA, Taiwan | 2022 – 120 minutes

In a labyrinthine factory in Metro Manila, workers are crammed together, inhaling toxic fumes with minimal protective gear, to make Catholic figurines for the huge religion market in the country. For some of these queer workers, life in the factory provides respite from an even harsher reality outside of it: addiction, violence and poverty. (SGIFF 2022)


Gaga by Laha Mebow – Taiwan | 2022 – 111 minutes

The Hayung family inhabit the highlands of Taiwan along with other indigenous Atayal people. Held in high esteem by the community, they make a steady living from agriculture and tourism, while the men sometimes have too much to drink. Even when their days are met by ruptures like an elder’s death or land surveys, their faiths—a syncretic mix of their Gaga belief system and Christianity—appear to prevail. (SGIFF 2022)


Jiseok by Kim Young-jo – South Korea | 2022 – 116 minutes

In 2017, the international film industry was shocked by the unexpected passing of Busan International Film Festival’s (BIFF) co-founder and deputy director Kim Ji-seok. From its beginnings to becoming one of the largest and most important film festivals in Asia, Kim was considered the heart of BIFF by many. (SGIFF 2022)


Joyland by Saim Sadiq – Pakistan | 2022 – 126 minutes

In a conservative multigenerational Pakistani household, soft-spoken Haider is pressured to find a job and to produce a male heir. After he lands a role as a backup dancer at an erotic dance theatre, his wife Mumtaz reluctantly leaves a job she enjoys at the behest of the family’s patriarch to become a housewife. While Mumtaz struggles in the domestic sphere, Haider falls for his boss, a confident, charismatic transgender dancer (played by transgender actress Alina Khan). (SGIFF 2022)


Myanmar Diaries by Myanmar Film Collective – Netherlands, Myanmar, Norway | 2022 – 70 minutes

Following the Burmese military junta’s coup in February 2021, civilians are plunged into a reality where state-sponsored violence is rife. Comprising footage recorded by locals telling of their lived experiences, this hybrid documentary is an account of the emotions post-coup for the ordinary Burmese: alienation, frustration, despair, shattered hopes and betrayal. (SGIFF 2022)


Nocebo by Lorcan Finnegan – Ireland, Philippines | 2022- 97 minutes

Haunted by visions of a tick-infested dog, children’s fashion designer Christine is afflicted with an inexplicable, debilitating illness. One day, Filipina domestic worker Diana turns up to help, bringing with her a promising folk remedy that soon unnerves the family and reveals a repressed truth. (SGIFF 2022)


Return to Seoul by Davy Chou – France, Germany, Belgium, Cambodia, Korea, Qatar | 2022 – 116 minutes

25-year-old Freddie is on an unplanned holiday in Seoul, her first time in South Korea after being adopted to France as a baby. Free-spirited, assertive and blunt even, she impulsively decides with the help of a friend to seek out her biological parents. The language barrier and patriarchal customs add to the friction and unease of reunion, but rather than providing resolution, the encounter sets her on a journey of personal discovery and transformation.


Stone Turtle by Woo Ming Jin – Malaysia, Indonesia | 2022 – 91 minutes

Zahara, a stateless refugee, becomes the guardian for her orphaned niece after a traumatic incident. Selling turtle eggs to survive, the pair live on a remote island where the living and the dead seemingly coexist. But their life of isolation soon changes with the arrival of Samad, a researcher who convinces Zahara to assist him in navigating the island. Along the way, Zahara and Samad’s interactions lead to a battle of wits and cunning—with deadly results. (SGIFF 2022)


The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra by Park Syeyoung – Korea | 2022 – 65 minutes

Through love, sickness and death, the bed is a constant witness to sadness, anger and despair. But what if such feelings foster the growth of something in our beds? This melancholy creature feature traces the life cycle of a mattress-dwelling fungus that not only thrives on its guests’ negative energies, but snatches their spinal parts to shape its own body. As it moves from a couple’s apartment to the edge of North Korea, we come to pity this being that seems doomed to mirror our modern malaise, even as it outlives our inhospitable times. With electric visuals, twitchy creature effects and quirky synth music that mixes the otherworldly with schmaltz, this genuine oddity will surprise even the most sophisticated genre fan. (SGIFF 2022)


Unidentified by Jude Chun – Korea | 2022- 80 minutes

1993: South Korea begins to democratise. UFOs suddenly appear, hovering over cities across the world. 29 years later, a filmmaker interviews subjects from all over who (re)connect with people from the past and future in their dreams. Others, no longer feeling they belong on Earth, find solace in UFO cults. Meanwhile, the nation sees a wave of ridiculously petty assaults by ‘aliens’ on humans (or is it the other way round?). (SGIFF 2022)


We Don’t Dance For Nothing by Stefanos Tai – Hong Kong, Philippines | 2022- 86 minutes

A young Filipino domestic worker, H, and her friends in Hong Kong take to the streets every Sunday on their day off to chat—and dance—as a liberatory gesture, no matter how temporary. H dreams of moving to another country in order to escape her life as a domestic worker, but torn between her attachment to her employer’s children and her desire to be free, she struggles with the decision to leave. (SGIFF 2022)


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