12 films from the shores of Singapore in 2018

This year's slate of Singapore films features familiar faces, scenes and themes that moviegoers can identify with or are made by companies with a connection to the country

This is going to be a quiet year for Singapore film.

There is nothing similar to Pop Aye (2017) or Ilo Ilo (2013), a drama with buzz set to win acclaim on the global festival circuit.

However, Sandi Tan, a former Straits Times film critic and now novelist living in Los Angeles, might find distribution for her documentary Shirkers here. It details the strange odyssey of an indie road movie she made in Singapore in 1992, how the footage went missing and how, 20 years later, a copy was found.

Shirkers is not quite a Singaporean film, but it should feature footage Tan shot here in 1992.

Otherwise, this will be the year of familiar faces.

Jack Neo's much-loved housewife character Liang Xi Mei will have a movie, as will 1990's comic-book hero Mr Kiasu. The sequel to 2011's popular military horror film 23:59 is also appearing this year.

It says something about the safe fare on offer that the most intriguing movie on the list is Zombiepura, billed as Singapore's first zombie movie. But even so, this horror-comedy plays it safe - it will also have a military theme as it pits Singapore troopers against the undead.

Here are the home-grown movies to watch out for.

2018 films from the shores of Singapore

1. Wonderful Liang Xi Mei


Genre: Comedy

Director: Jack Neo

Cast: Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Henry Thia, Gadrick Chin and Jaspers Lai

Release: Feb 15

Neo takes a break from his spectacularly successful Ah Boys To Men franchise to helm this comedy, based on the character of good-hearted housewife Liang, a cross-dressing role he made famous on Channel 8 variety shows.

This Chinese New Year movie comes decades after his other female character, the grandmotherly Liang Po Po, had her own movie in 1999.

In this comedy, Madam Liang's optimism and wise counsel come in handy after her son Robert falls victim to a scam.

2 The Wayang Kids


Genre: Comedy/drama

Director: Raymond Tan

Cast: Eli Shih, Christopher Downs, Jocie Kok, May Phua, Austin Chong and Lorena Gibb

Release: March 8

Director Tan made Wayang Boy (2014), about an Indian who becomes fascinated with Chinese opera.

Opera, and how the love of it can transcend barriers, remains a central idea in his new movie.

A mildly autistic boy and a Eurasian girl from China must convince sceptics that they have what it takes to represent their school in an opera performance.

3. Ramen Teh


Genre: Drama

Director: Eric Khoo

Stars: Takumi Saito, Mark Lee, Seiko Matsuda and Jeanette Aw

Release: Mid-2018

Khoo (Be With Me, 2005; In The Room, 2015) is a fan of Japanese comic books, a fondness he expanded on in his animated work Tatsumi (2011).

He is also fond of Japanese food and, in this film, a young ramen chef (Saito) travels from Japan to Singapore in search of a past hidden from him by his Singapore-born mother.

He finds a way to bridge not just past and present, but also his Japanese cooking style and that of his mother's homeland.

4. A Land Imagined 


Genre: Thriller/drama

Director: Yeo Siew Hua 

Cast: Peter Yu, Liu Xiaoyi, Yue Guo and Andie Chen

Release: Mid-2018 

Producer Fran Borgia of Akanga Films is known for helping to make challenging work (K. Rajagopal's A Yellow Bird, 2016; and Boo Junfeng's Apprentice, 2016).

In this cross-cultural police puzzler, a migrant worker goes missing in Singapore, creating a mystery wider than just a missing person.

This project won funding from public funds in Singapore, the Netherlands and France.

It is Yeo's third film, after experimental film House Of Straw (2009) and band documentary The Obs: A Singapore Story (2014).

5. Buffalo Boys 


Genre: Action/drama 

Director: Mike Wiluan

Cast: Yoshi Sudarso, Ario Bayu, Tio Pakusadewo, Pevita Pearce and Reinout Bussemaker 

Release: July

This is an Indonesian period action-drama and it has been called "satay western" in reference to spaghetti westerns that were made in Italy.

Wiluan is a Singapore permanent resident who makes his directorial debut with this movie. He is also the chief executive officer of co-producer Infinite Studios, which is based in Singapore and Batam. Singapore production house Zhao Wei Films is also co-producer.

Indonesia in the 19th century is in the grip of the Dutch. But one man is bold enough to rally a small town to resist the colonial forces.

6. A Simple Wedding 


Genre: Romantic comedy 

Director: Lee Thean-jeen 

Cast: Desmond Tan, Amber An, Richard Low and Liu Ling Ling

Release: Mid-2018

Lee's last movie was the well-reviewed horror work, Bring Back The Dead (2015). A veteran producer, writer and director of Channel 5 shows (legal drama The Pupil, 2010-2011; and comedy Calefare, 2005), the new film finds him working in Mandarin, with a story about a couple who must reckon with class divides and old flames in the days leading to their wedding.

7. Mr Kiasu 

Genre: Comedy 

Director and cast: To be announced 

Release: 2018, to be confirmed 

Created by Johnny Lau, James Suresh, Lim Yu Cheng and Eric Chong, the books featuring the character who always finds a way to do things cheaper and faster were a hit in the 1990s.

A television series starring Chew Chor Meng in the title role aired in 2001.

The movie has Mr Kiasu as a middle-aged man fighting to keep his job as mall manager when a new, flashier mall opens nearby.

8. Zombiepura 

Genre: Horror-comedy

Director: Jacen Tan 

Cast: Alaric Tay and Benjamin Heng

Release: 2018, to be confirmed 

Previous attempts to make a zombie movie failed because such films require two things that are hard to find in Singapore: broken, empty landscapes and hordes of extras to play the army of the dead. Let us hope this latest attempt works.

Tay and Heng play two soldiers trapped in a camp filled with friends who have turned into flesh-eating members of the undead after a viral outbreak. Tay comes from Channel 5's news satire The Noose and Heng has been on the same channel's Calefare (2005), a comedy, as well as other shows.

9. Island Of Fury 

Genre: Action comedy

Director: Jack Neo 

Cast: To be confirmed 

Release: 2018, to be confirmed

Neo's second movie this year sounds a lot like a throwback to the heyday of Hong Kong action flicks. Two close friends, both hitmen for a top gang, face off on a mission after one of them tries to leave the group.

10. Hell Hole 

Genre: Drama

Director: Sam Loh 

Cast: To be confirmed 

Release: 2018, to be confirmed 

Loh is known for indie productions that make actors expose themselves in all senses of the word, such as the R21-rated erotic thriller Siew Lup (2017). Not much is known about this new film, except for a synopsis that says it will consist of three stories, each involving love and suffering, with supernatural elements.

11. Fat Hope 

Genre: Comedy

Director: Joyce Lee 

Cast: To be announced

Release: End 2018 


Lee is the owner of film distribution house Encore Films and this is her second time directing after co-helming the coming-of-age comedy Young And Fabulous (2016).

In this body-switch comedy, an attractive woman pays the price for not obeying a piece of spam she finds on Facebook and finds herself heavily overweight.

12. 23:59ii 


Genre: Horror 

Director: Gilbert Chan

Cast: Noah Yap, Wang Lei, Richie Koh, Mark Lee, Fabian Loo, Jason Ho and Eric Lee 

Release: End 2018

The sequel to the popular 23:59 (2011) military-themed horror movie returns with the same director. This time, instead of one story, this is an omnibus of three.

Each story is set in a different era of national service: 1968, 1985 and the present day. The spirits bedevilling the soldiers are as varied as the styles of combat uniform, ranging from undead Japanese infantry to fake girlfriends suddenly coming to life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2018, with the headline '12 films from the shores of Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe