The huge tide of movies that washed ashore last year has abated somewhat with the passing of SG50. This year, about 15 films with Singapore connections are slated for release, compared with 20 last year.
This is, however, a rough estimate; as we get closer to the Singapore International Film Festival in December, previously unannounced independent fiction features and documentaries could appear.
What is noteworthy is that this year, the Jack Neo picture is not one from the high successful Ah Boys To Men franchise (2012, 2013, 2015), but a new concept. The family drama Long Long Time Ago marks a break not just from his military comedies, but also in the use of language - as judged from a press preview, about 70 per cent of the dialogue is Hokkien, the biggest amount of dialect heard in a local movie since guidelines restricting use in films came into being.
Last year, the thriller Unlucky Plaza (2014) was the only Singapore film fronted by Englishspeaking characters. There will not be its equivalent this year.
The horror work The Faith Of Anna Waters, from film-maker Kelvin Tong (It's A Great, Great World, 2011), is in English, but it stars American actors. The comedy Lulu The Movie and the drama Apprentice will have English dialogue, but in Lulu's comedically broken form.
This year finds a few prestige dramas on the list.
The most highly anticipated is Apprentice, from film-maker Boo Junfeng (Sandcastle, 2010), which tells the story of a young prison warden trainee who has to learn the ropes (in a manner of speaking) from the executioner.
Many of the films, such as A Yellow Bird; Chennai2Singapore; Lulu The Movie; My Love, Sinema; Long Long Time Ago; Apprentice; The Tenants and Lucky Boy, have funding from the Media Development Authority.
1. LONG LONG TIME AGO
Director: Jack Neo
Release: Feb 4
Stars: Aileen Tan, Mark Lee, Wang Lei, Suhaimi Yusof, Yan Li Xuan and Silvarajoo Prakasam
Writer-director Jack Neo takes a year off his Ah Boys To Men franchise to showcase this passion project, which seems to be a two-parter, with the second instalment scheduled for Chinese New Year next year. He mixes his own memories of kampung life with real Singapore events - separation from Malaysia, national service conscription and floods - to make this family drama, starring Tan as Zhao Di, a mother of three girls forced to return to her village after the death of her husband.
2. LET'S EAT
Director: Chapman To
Release: Feb 5
Stars: Chapman To (above) , Aimee Chan, Lo Hoi Pang, Patricia Mok and C Kwan
This Singapore-Malaysia co-production has Hong Kong funnyman To (Vulgaria, 2012) making his directing debut. A chef (To) and daughter (Hong Kong actress Chan) take over a successful cafe. She wants to update it; he wants to preserve its old-world flavour. This Chinese New Year release is not strictly a local production, with its mostly Hong Kong cast, but it has the involvement of Singapore production house Clover Films and Singaporean supporting actors, including Mok.
3. IN THE ROOM
Director: Eric Khoo
Release: Feb 25
Stars: Josie Ho (above centre), Choi Woo Shik, Lawrence Wong and George Young
Six stories taking place in a hotel room over several decades make up the film. Each tale features an aspect of sexuality that reflects Singapore's mores of the period.
For a moment, discussions over the film's classification broke off. But the drama, which played to some acclaim at overseas festivals, will screen here after the Media Development Authority is offered an "international version".
But a spokesman for the Media Development Authority said: "We have yet to receive the International Version of this film, which we understand will be submitted for classification soon."
4. THE MOMENT
Director: Huang Guo Hui
Release: First quarter
Stars: Gordon Lam, Dada Chan, Eric Suen, Kelvin Kwan and Eric Kwok
This Singapore-Hong Kong co-production cuts among four stories, all set in Hong Kong, before the threads come together at the climax. A mix of romance, drama and comedy, the stories revolve around lovers, friends and family members each dealing with a relationship crisis of some kind.
5. 4 LOVE
Directors: Raihan Halim, Gilbert Chan, Sam Loh and Daniel Yam
Release: First quarter
Starring: Maxi Lim, Cheryl Wee, Jonathan Cheok, Silver Ang, Louis Wu, Shane Pow, Joshua Tan and Hayley Woo
Four directors helm four short films in this romance anthology starring a team of hot young actors.
The directors come from diverse backgrounds, so this collection should be an interesting mix. Loh made R21-rated cannibal crime thriller Lang Tong (2014). Chan made his name in horror, with Ghost Child (2013) and 23:59 (2011). Raihan was behind Malay-language sports dramedy Banting (2014).
Yam, 41, is behind short films including Gift (2013) and Promise (2014).
Directors: Tan Shijie (Singapore), Xin Yukun (China) and Sivaroj Kongsakul (Thailand)
Release: April 7
Stars: Chen Bolin (above right), Paul Chun, Ling Zhenghui, Yo Yang (above left), Yeo Yann Yann, Wei Han-ding and Chayanit Chansangavej
This Mandarin-Thai anthology of three short films is overseen by executive producer Anthony Chen, director of the Camera d'Or- and Golden Horse-winning Ilo Ilo (2013). In this pan-Asian drama, the theme is distance and how people deal with the gulf that separates them.
7. YOUNG & FABULOUS
Director: Kelvin Sng
Release: May 26
Stars: Gurmit Singh, Henry Thia, Quan Yifeng, Aloysius Pang (above centre, with Joyce Chu) and Joshua Tan (above left)
Sng (Taxi! Taxi!, 2013) works with a script by Rebecca Leow (Filial Party, 2014; The Wedding Diary, 2012) for this, billed as Singapore's first movie that celebrates cosplayers - fans of anime and video games who dress up as characters. Funnyman Singh is a tough but kind teacher whose students are cosplay-crazy; host-actress Quan is a mother worried about cosplay ruining her son's flawless academic record.
8. LULU THE MOVIE
Director: Michelle Chong
Stars: Michelle Chong (above)
This spin-off from current-affairs sketch show The Noose features breakout character Lulu, the creation of writer-director Chong. Lulu gets a backstory - she comes to Singapore from China with a head full of romantic dreams, which are crushed. The foreign talent soon becomes a fashion icon and television host. In this Mandarin-English mockumentary, she travels from Singapore to London, Montreal and farther afield, confounding strangers and charming friends with her sense of style and special brand of English.
Helming this is Koh, a 1993 graduate of the Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts making his feature debut. His psychological thriller is the first from a film-maker from last year's batch of five receiving the Media Development Authority's New Talent Feature Grant. In this Mandarin work, a woman with an identity disorder is torn apart from within when one of the identities goes on a rampage against the others.
10. CHENNAI2 SINGAPORE
Director: Abbas Akbar
Release: Second half
Stars: Sathya, Ashish Vidyarthi and Dharbuka Shiva
Originally slated for release last year, this Tamil language romantic comedy has been postponed by a year. The work sees Harish, a struggling film-maker, coming to Singapore from India in a bid to get his movie made. With the help of a ragtag band of misfits, he finds that dreams can come true.
11. THE FAITH OF ANNA WATERS
Director: Kelvin Tong
Release: Second half
Stars: Matthew Settle (left), Elizabeth Rice (right), Colin Borgonon, Pamelyn Chee, Adrian Pang, Jaymee Ong and Tan Kheng Hua
Moved from last year, this horror work sees Jamie Waters (Rice, from television's Mad Men) move from Seattle to Singapore to look into the strange death of her sister. She joins forces with widower Sam (Settle from Band Of Brothers) only to discover occult forces at work.
12. MY LOVE, SINEMA
Director: Tan Ai Leng
Release: Third quarter
Stars: Tosh Zhang, Cheryl Wee (both above), Jeff Wang and Zen Chong
Ah Boys To Men's Zhang stars in this period drama opposite Wee and supported by Star Search winner Wang. Writer-director Tan makes her feature debut in this ode to young love and the power of cinema, set in the 1950s, but with threads picked up in the present day.
Director: Boo Junfeng
Release: Third quarter
Stars: Firdaus Rahman, Wan Hanafi Su and Mastura Ahmad
In this EnglishMalay follow-up to Boo's acclaimed coming-of-age drama Sandcastle (2010), a young prison officer is taken under the wing of a senior member of staff, who turns out to be the chief executioner. The young man has a crisis of conscience when he is asked to apprentice, to one day take over as an agent of death.
14. A YELLOW BIRD
Director: K Rajagopal
Stars: Sivakumar Palakrishnan, Huang Lu and Seema Biswas
Rajagopal contributed to the SG50 anthology 7 Letters and has made a host of prize-winning short films. His debut feature tells the story of a man trying to reconnect with his family after a term in prison. The cast comprises local veteran Sivakumar and Bollywood actress Seema.
15. LUCKY BOY
Director: Boris Boo
Release: To be confirmed
Stars: Chew Chor Meng, Chen Xiuhuan, Wang Weiliang (above left) and Venus Wong (above right)
Boo (Filial Party, 2014; Greedy Ghost, 2012) directs veteran Chew and Ah Boys To Men star Wang in this coming-of-age drama about a young man who seems cursed to approach but never grasp good fortune in love or finances.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline '15 local films to catch'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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