SINGAPORE – The 29th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) hosted an evening of celebration in honour of Asia’s best in film at the Silver Screen Awards at the historic Capitol Theatre this evening.

A total of 14 awards were presented at the grand ceremony this year, including the highly coveted Best Film Award in the Asian Feature Film Competition, and Best Southeast Asian Short Film Award in the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition; alongside seven other awards across the two competitions.

The evening also saw the presentation of the Festival’s highest honour, the Honorary Award and the Cinema Legend Award; as well as the Inspiring Woman in Film Award presented by Swarovski to luminaries of Asian cinema.

ASIAN FEATURE FILM COMPETITION

A Land Imagined by Singaporean director, Yeo Siew Hua was awarded the Best Film in the Asian Feature Film Competition, unanimously selected by the panel of jury from a total of eight nominated feature films from across Asia.

It also made history as the first-ever Singapore film to win in this category at the Silver Screen Awards. The Mandarin thriller is Yeo’s sophomore feature that tells the tale about the disappearance of a migrant Chinese construction worker at a Singapore land reclamation site. The jury found the film “combined clear and original vision, strong storytelling, and technical achievement in addressing an increasingly important issue not only to Singapore but to the world”.

The honour of Best Director went to Pham Thu Hang for her feature documentary The Future Cries Beneath Our Soil, a moving documentary that deftly captures the dark shadow of war and death, present in even everyday conversation and simple gestures, set in Vietnam’s Quảng Tri province. The film is “exceptional in its vision and it welcomes audiences into a world so intimately, while blurring the lines between genres and challenges the language of cinema”.

Manoranjoan Das took home the prize for Best Performance for his role of Suman in Bulbul Can Sing by Rima Das. The jury commended on his performance “for the courage and vulnerability he infused into his character. Suman was brought to life with a subtlety and an innocence that moved the entire jury”.

Dayan by Iranian director Behrouz Nooranipour, a compelling drama which delve into the horrors of ISIS operations in Iranian Kurdistan, was accorded Special Mention at the awards this evening. The jury found the film “immerses audiences into the horrors of one of most significant humanitarian crises in the world today; and under unusually arduous circumstances, the director takes the audience on a journey of courage and authenticity”.

The winners of the Asian Feature Film Competition were decided by a panel of five jury members, headed by leading figure of the Hong Kong New Wave, director Stanley Kwan. Joining him on the panel of jury are Hollywood actor, director, and producer, Daniel Dae Kim; legendary Japanese cinematographer, Akiko Ashizawa; acclaimed Canadian film producer, Sylvain Corbeil; and Vietnamese-born French actress, costume, and production designer, Trần Nữ Yên Khê.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN SHORT FILM COMPETITION

The Best Southeast Asian Short Film award from the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition this year went to A Million Years by first-time director Danech San, which illustrates the story of a young woman who enters a parallel riverfront with a stranger, and both recounting stories of fear. The director, “in a formalistic style of directing, deftly touches upon several deep questions of contemporary reality, bound together by an elegant cinematic signature”.

Aditya Ahmad was awarded Best Director for his short film Kado (A Gift), which the jury deemed as “a sincere, deeply-felt film that does not provide easy answers but reveals the complexities of gender identity in Muslim communities”. The film was also awarded the Youth Jury Prize through the collective 15-member jury panel in the Youth Jury & Critics Programme, an initiative by SGIFF to provide mentorship and a developmental platform, as well as a voice to a new generation of young writers on cinema from the region. Kado is a portrait of a child caught at the crossroads of adolescence. Poignantly moving, the film offers a raw and unflinching look into a painful coming-of- age search for identity. Kado’s quiet depth is its voice, fragility its strength, and resilience its spark of hope for all of us in time to come.

Back at the home front, Luzon by Chiang Wei Liang, a flawlessly directed tale of two fishermen, one radioactive barrel, and the South China Sea, was awarded Best Singapore Short Film. The jury shared that the film “is a simple allegory that absurdly and succinctly highlights the socio- political tensions of the region”.

Thai director Korakrit Arunanondchai’s short film With History In A Room Filled With People With Funny Names 4 was given the Special Mention by jury; who regarded it an essayistic approach by fine artist Arunanondchai that playfully tackles memory and loss with poetry, humour, and intellectual rigour.

The Southeast Asian Short Film Competition jury panel this year was headed by Maike Mia Höhne, curator of the Berlinale Shorts programme since 2007 in an all-women team, a nod to the progressive development in Asian cinema, and the celebration of diversity in filmmaking. Joining her on the panel were Filipino filmmaker Shireen Seno and Singapore filmmaker Kirsten Tan.