The cinematic hits worth a rerun on the big screen

The 29th Singapore International Film Festival came and went, but not without leaving us hungry for more. With limited screenings per film and even fewer tickets available, it was an almost impossible task to fully appreciate the award-winning selection the festival had to offer. Thankfully, many films are returning for a sophomore run in cinemas here, thanks to the folks from Anticipate Pictures and mm2 entertainment. Further details on exact dates to follow, but for now, pencil these into your calendar.
 

Border


Scandi multi-genre fantasy flick Border ticked every box imaginable—sweeping panoramas of Nordic landscapes, fairy tale magic, and a heartwarming coming-of-age narrative buried in the guise of romance. The story revolves around outsider Tina (Eva Melander), an odd-looking border patrol officer with the mysterious gift of being able to smell guilt, shame and other such ugly moods. When she meets a strange new foreigner with the odour of a dark secret, her entire world is flipped upside down, and Eva is made to question the quiet life she thought she knew. Beautifully shot and boasting a truly original story, this Swedish film is breathtaking, heart-wrenching, and a must-watch for anyone still learning how to love themselves. Our full review here.

Returning for theatrical release in early May 2019
 

Cities of Last Things


SGIFF’s opening film may have been a bold choice with all its gratuitous sex and violence, but it certainly made a statement. Taiwanese director Ho Wi Ding’s gritty feature film is a mish-mash of many elements—prostitution, futuristic technology, betrayal and murder—that come together in reverse chronological order to tell the tragic tale of Zhang Dong Ling. Portrayed by three different actors in three separate segments, Zhang’s suicide (which opens the film) is unraveled piece by piece via three key events from his life, ending finally in some pretty affecting boyhood trauma. There’s much to enjoy here: the layered reveal that’s a testament to Ho’s knack for storytelling (a little predictable by the third act, but necessary); the stylistic visuals in an ode to film noir; the imaginative sci-fi aspects in “present-day” that bring to mind a Chinese Black Mirror. A heavy watch that’s worth the ride.

Now showing at The Projector
 

Dear Ex


The other big Taiwanese hit of the festival, Dear Ex is at first glance a queer rom-com with pretty actors and nothing much to say. But the film by directors Mag Hsu and Hsu Chih-yen is in fact a complex exploration of love and family, charted through the intertwining relationships of two seemingly unconnected families. Hsieh Ying-hsuan plays a henpecked widow whose maternal concern overwhelms her teenage son (newcomer Joseph Huang); while dreamboat Roy Chiu plays a gay man who was actually the secret lover of her late husband—and the sole recipient of his insurance payout. All three leads deliver their lines with impressive comedic timing, with Chiu and Hsieh’s bickering being some of the most realistically amusing scenes; yet the laughs never take away from the somber moments of the film. And straight actor Chiu is no ordinary hussy—as the plot develops, his convincing performance as freelance theatre-maker Ah Jie fleshes out the initially bogus romance, tugging heartstrings right till the very end. Love is love is love is love, people.

Returning for theatrical release in Q3 2019; streaming on Netflix Feb 1
 

Girl


A bagful of film festival wins later, Belgian director Lukas Dhont’s Girl is here to bring transgender storytelling to Singapore’s screens. Lara (Victor Polster) is a 15-year-old transgender girl with big dreams of being a professional ballerina. While her father is supportive of her transitioning, the rigour of ballet training and her unforgiving young classmates take its toll on her, to rather gruesome effect. Inspired by the real-life story of Nora Monsecour, a trans female dancer from Belgium, Girl is an intimate portrait of how a young trans girl’s physical struggle turns inward—that also takes the time to paint oft-stereotyped relationships between father and daughter. Paired with moody cinematography, the young Polster’s devoted performance neatly balances the crippling anxieties of being both a teenager and a transgender.

Now showing at The Projector
 

The Guilty


The premise of sleek Danish thriller The Guilty is simple: While on duty, an emergency dispatcher receives a distressed call from an abducted woman. When the call disconnects, he becomes consumed with trying to save her in a race against time. It’s a laudable debut feature for Swedish-born director Gustav Moller (who only graduated film school in 2015)—the tightly packed 85-minute film never once leaves the office, but manages to fully harness its audience’s imagination with precise dialogue and convincing facial acting. Jakob Cedergren is the star of the film as the sullen-faced Asger Holm, whose every forehead crease and nervous tick is cinematically amplified on the big screen. His unexplored backstory is a dent in the story, but the twists are novel and well-paced, so you get that satisfactory “Eureka!” payoff for figuring it out just before Asger. Selected as the Danish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards, the film has even been picked up for an American remake starring Jake Gyllenhaal in the taxing role.

Returning for theatrical release in early March 2019