South Asian works take centre stage in film festival

Films such as Bengali's offering, The Bait, will be shown at the Singapore South Asian International Film Festival.
Films such as Bengali's offering, The Bait, will be shown at the Singapore South Asian International Film Festival.PHOTO: SGSAIFF

The inaugural Singapore South Asian International Film Festival has programmed 35 feature films, shorts and documentaries from countries including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.

The 10-day event, which kicks off on Sept 1, is long overdue here, says its festival director Abhayanand Singh.

He tells The Straits Times: "Anywhere in the world that there is a significant South Asian diaspora, there is a dedicated South Asian film festival. Singapore, surprisingly, has not had one.

"This event will hopefully become a significant cultural gateway in the years to come. Through the powerful medium of cinema, we hope to build closer ties between the global city of Singapore and the developing nations of South Asia."

The film festival is organised by Muvizz, a streaming service for world independent films, and supported by the High Commission of India in Singapore, Institute of South Asian Studies and National University of Singapore.

Mr Singh, 36, is the founder of Muvizz.

Twenty-six films will be competing for Best Feature Film, Best Documentary Film and Best Short Film.


  • WHERE: Various locations, including The Projector, Golden Village Great World City and Filmgarde at Leisure Park Kallang

    WHEN: Sept 1 to 10, various times

    ADMISSION: $12 for a film


The jury deciding the winners of these awards is made up of four film-makers: Mostofa Sarwar Farooki from Bangladesh, Siddiq Barmak from Afghanistan, K. Rajagopal from Singapore and Prasanna Vithanage from Sri Lanka.

The films screening in competition include Sri Lanka's Withered Leaf (2016), about a poor village woman's struggles after the sudden death of her husband, and Marathi-language Indian film Lathe Joshi (2016), about a factory worker who is rendered jobless due to advances in technology.

Among the film highlights in the Showcase segment, which is not in competition, is Malayalam crime thriller Pinneyum (Once Again, 2016), which is directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

The 76-year-old film-maker, who will be in town to talk about his work, is known for revolutionising the Malayalam film industry when his debut flick, Swayamvaram (1972), screened at international festivals in London, Moscow and Paris.

Another Showcase film to look out for is Bengali offering The Bait (2016). The award-winning work is based on a short story by Narayan Bandyopadhya. It tells the story of three characters in three different stories, including the tale of a young girl who earns a living for her lower-caste family as a tightrope walker.

Mr Singh says: "There are a lot of films that never reach us in Singapore. There was clearly a gap, considering that India alone has one of the biggest film industries in the world.

"This festival will bring these films to Singapore and, at the same time, create a whole environment of creative and cultural exchange."

Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2017, with the headline 'South Asian films take centre stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe