A Land Imagined lands Singapore's first Silver Screen Best Film award

Yeo Siew Hua giving his acceptance speech at the Silver Screen Awards last night. His film, A Land Imagined, was picked by a jury of five industry professionals as the winner, from a shortlist of eight nominees. There are plans to release the film in
Yeo Siew Hua giving his acceptance speech at the Silver Screen Awards last night. His film, A Land Imagined, was picked by a jury of five industry professionals as the winner, from a shortlist of eight nominees. There are plans to release the film in cinemas here next year.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

For the first time since the launch of the Silver Screen Awards in 1991, a Singapore film has won Best Film in the Asian Feature Film Competition.

Writer-director Yeo Siew Hua's mostly Mandarin drama, A Land Imagined, picked up the prize last night at Capitol Theatre.

The awards are the traditional closing event of the Singapore International Film Festival, which this year opened on Nov 28, and ends today.

In his speech, Yeo said having the film win in Singapore and premiere to a sold-out hall held special meaning for him.

"We have been travelling with this film for the last few months and to finally be home, where it's meant to be seen, is really amazing."

In the film, a Singaporean detective looks into the vanishing of a Chinese migrant worker from a land reclamation site and, in the process, peeks into a corner of the island carved out by men and women from China and Bangladesh. There are plans to release the film in cinemas here next year.

A jury of five industry professionals, led by Hong Kong film-maker Stanley Kwan, picked Yeo's film from a shortlist of eight nominees.

Jury member Daniel Dae Kim, an American actor, director and producer, said in an interview before the ceremony that A Land Imagined is "a very accomplished film", one that, like the several of the other nominated films, "dealt with isolation and loneliness".

The prize for Best Director went to Pham Thu Hang for her documentary The Future Cries Beneath Our Soil, about how the effects of war over 40 years ago linger in Vietnam's Quang Tri province, a site of many pivotal battles.

The film festival, now in its 29th edition, gave its highest honour, the Honorary Award, to leading Cambodian film-maker Rithy Panh, for his many works in fiction and documentary films. The award is given for "exceptional and enduring contributions to Asian cinema". For three decades, he has also worked to keep older Cambodian films and other cultural artefacts from being lost to decay and neglect.

Chinese-American actress, director, producer and writer Joan Chen was given the Cinema Legend Award, which is presented to "an Asian actor who has made an indelible mark with his or her performances". Past recipients include Malaysian actress and producer Michelle Yeoh and Japanese actor Koji Yakusho.

Chen's acting career began in the 1970s in China, where she became a star. She then moved to the United States and starred in films such as the historical epic The Last Emperor (1987) and the period thriller Lust, Caution (2007).

She can now be seen in the popular Chinese dynastic drama series, Ruyi's Royal Love In The Palace (2018).

She also won the Best Director and Best Film Golden Horse awards for the coming-of-age story, Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (1998).

In the South-east Asian Short Film Competition, the award for Best South-east Asian Short Film was given to the drama A Million Years, from first-time Cambodian director Danech San.

In her film, two people who are strangers to each other begin telling stories of fear. The Best Director award went to Aditya Ahmad from Indonesia for his short film Kado (A Gift), which deals with a teenager whose gender choices cause friction with her Muslim family.

The prize for Best Singapore Short Film went to Chiang Wei Liang for his black comedy Luzon, about fishermen from two countries whose minor squabble at sea takes a sinister turn.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 09, 2018, with the headline 'A Land Imagined lands Singapore's first Silver Screen Best Film award'. Print Edition | Subscribe