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LIFE POWER LIST 2015

Visionary duo

19) MR ZHANG WENJIE, 41, festival director, Singapore International Film Festival, and MS YUNI HADI, 39, executive director

At the Singapore International Film Festival screening of Cemetery Of Splendour (2015), award-winning Thai film-maker Apichatpong Weerasethakul had said the occasion meant more to him than being screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

His film about Thailand's recent social and political history would probably not be allowed in his country without cuts. Weerasethakul, who won the Palme d'Or in 2010 for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, had said he would never censor his work.

Showing his film in Singapore rather than at a European festival allowed it to be accessible to Thais around the region, he had said. Several of his countrymen had flown here to see it.

A strong sense of regional spirit was present at this year's Singapore International Film Festival, which could be said to be a festival made by and for South-east Asians. About 40 per cent of the content this year came from the region.

Under the leadership of executive director Yuni Hadi and festival director Zhang Wenjie, the 11-day event saw 12,000 visitors, a 20 per cent increase over the turnout the previous year, when it was relaunched after a two-year hiatus.

For its strong programming identity, the duo make their debut on the Power List.

A champion of local indie film, Ms Hadi co-produced Ilo Ilo (2013), the critically acclaimed drama that put Singapore director Anthony Chen at the top of the Power List in 2013.

Ms Hadi, who is married to Thai film-maker Aditya Assarat, says: "Building that South-east Asian connection is really important to us and having regional film-makers come and be a part of this wider community makes it meaningful."

The team broke new ground this year. It screened director Eric Khoo's In The Room, when it appeared the erotic drama might not get a general release here because of its sex scenes.

Ms Hadi and Mr Zhang are also proud of the festival's development programmes, the South-east Asian Film Lab and Youth Jury and Critics Programme, which aims to nurture film-makers and film journalism.

Mr Zhang, who used to head the National Museum of Singapore's film department, Cinematheque, says: "The programmes have become important staples of the festival. It is wonderful to hear the ideas and voices of young people every year." He is married to Ms Tang Huifang, a specialist in an electronics company.

Ms Hadi says: "If we don't invest in these programmes, how can we expect others to? It is not cheap to run these programmes, but we believe in them and hope we can continue to run them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'Visionary duo'. Print Edition | Subscribe