Two short films, dealing with the plight of foreigners and made by Singaporeans, won top honours on Saturday night at the Silver Screen Awards, organised by the 25th Singapore International Film Festival.
Dahdi (Granny), which won Best Southeast Asian Short Film, was directed by Kirsten Tan, who is based in Brooklyn, New York. This work by Tan, 33, a director and cinematographer, features a young girl seeking asylum, who drops in on an elderly widow during dinner. It was inspired by a 2012 event, where 40 boat people were picked up by a Vietnamese vessel that was denied entry into Singapore. They were believed to have been Rohingya refugees escaping violence in Myanmar's western Rakhine state.
Another Singaporean film-maker Shijie Tan, 33, won Best Singapore Short Film for Not Working Today. His film tells the tale of a foreign worker, who decides not to go to work one day, making his way instead to the authorities to ask for redress for the wages owed to him.
It was the first time the Silver Screen Awards had introduced a Southeast Asian Short Film competition, which saw 19 short-film entries, including five from Singapore. The jury for this contest was headed by local director Royston Tan. His fellow jury members were Singapore-based, Malaysia-born actress Yeo Yann Yann and Nguyen Trinh Thi, a Vietnamese film-maker and video artist.
The jury citation for Dahdi (Granny) lauded the "sensitive and poignant" work, noting the "mature direction" shown by Kirsten Tan, who recently received a Masters Degree in Film Production at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Dahdi means "grandmother" in the Rohingya language.
The Silver Screen Award's biggest prize, Best Film, was conferred on Court, a debut feature by director Chaitanya Tamhane, which centres on the justice system in India. The first-time director also took home the Best Director award for his film, in which an ageing folk singer is tried for abetting the suicide of a manhole worker with an inflammatory song. A total of 11 feature films were contenders in this Asian Feature Film Category.
The jury for this category, which included Singaporean film-maker Kelvin Tong, hailed Court as "a brilliant achievement" and a "glittering gem … every facet of this film shines".
The Singapore International Film Festival, which ends on Sunday, also presented an Honorary Award to veteran South Korean director Im Kwon Taek, dubbed the father of modern Korean cinema. The festival also paid tribute to the late Sir Run Run Shaw, who founded Shaw Brothers Studio and TVB.
Well-known German actress Nastassja Kinski, veteran Hong Kong actress Cheng Pei Pei and Taiwanese A-list actor Chen Bo-lin were among the celebrities who walked the red carpet before the awards ceremony.