This year's edition of Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) honours timeless classics from Asia – the artistry, the impact and the unique chronological window they offer as social documents. The spotlight is also put on local social satires alongside select picks from the well-trodden Asian spy genre. As the festival returns from November 23 to December 3 for its 28th edition, we take a look at five highlights that you’ve just gotta see.
I Not Stupid (2002)
This local drama was groundbreaking, not only in the handling of its subject matter – the parallels between the pressures children feel as students and adults in the hectic rigmarole of Singaporean life – it also laid the groundwork for dialogue on the reformation of the education system on a national level.
Screening on Nov 27, 7pm.
Operation Revenge (1967)
Moustache twirling international villains, drug operations gone wrong, mysterious femme fatales and a cavalier agent sent in to sort it out – Operation Revenge is a deliriously fun riff on Western spy and James Bond clichés that adds a dash of regional Thai flair, helping this movie establish itself as a wonderful oddity of the spy action genre.
Screening on Nov 25, 11am.
The Hand of Fate (1954)
Released in the aftermath of the Korean War and the establishment of the Korean Demilitarised Zone, this classic chronicles the affair of a North Korean spy masquerading as a bar girl, and a struggling student who is in fact a South Korean counter-espionage agent. The film’s central message of love conquers all and its anticommunist idea is more pertinent now than ever before with tensions in the region at boiling point.
Screening on Nov 26, 2pm.
Talking Cock (2002)
Before YouTube, memes and social media permeated the collective Singaporean conscious, there was talkingcock.com – a pioneer of satirical humour and free speech in the city. Directors Colin Goh and Woo Yen’s film of the same name embodies the spirit of the website with farcical, situational sketches of Singaporean inhabitants. The comedy hinges on (and wears) its puerility and ramshackle production proudly. It stands as a classic as the film is really much more than the sum of its parts – a fairly devastating commentary on the grotesque as a political tool.
Screening on Nov 25, 7pm.
The One Armed Executioner (1983)
Offering slightly more than a knowing wink at Chang Cheh’s seminal wuxia flick, One-Armed Swordsman (1967), director Bobby A Suarez’s ‘actionsploitation’ film sets an Interpol agent on a punishing path of vengeance after both his arm and newlywed are eliminated by a drug syndicate. Much like Operation Revenge, this is B-movie gold that gleefully plays with the archetypes that schlocky action movies are known and loved for, all with a hint of Filipino political and social relevance thrown into the mix.
Screening on Nov 26, 9.30pm.