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Film Picks: Middle East Film Festival 2020

Middle East Film Festival 2020
Middle East Film Festival 2020PHOTO: MIDDLE EAST FILM FESTIVAL/ LUXBOX
Batch '81
Batch '81PHOTO: ASIAN FILM ARCHIVE
Uncut Gems
Uncut GemsPHOTO: NETFLIX

MIDDLE EAST FILM FESTIVAL 2020

Presented by the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, with support from the Singapore Film Society, this year's edition features seven films - from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey, Israel and Morocco.

The Orphanage (2019, NC16, 90 minutes, screens on Feb 14, 9.15pm), selected for the Directors' Fortnight at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, is a drama about a street kid living in 1980s Afghanistan, then a nation under Soviet control.

The fan of Bollywood, who used to sell cinema tickets on the street, is captured and sent to an orphanage just as Soviet influence is waning. Soon, his new home is caught up in wider social changes.

WHERE: GV VivoCity, 02-30 VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk MRT: HarbourFront WHEN: Feb 14 to 19, various times ADMISSION: $13 INFO: www.singaporefilmsociety.com/event/meff2020

ACCESSING THE ARCHIVE

Rare gems from the Asian Film Archive are released for public screenings in the Accessing The Archive programme and the pick this week is the drama Batch '81 (1982, NC16, 98 minutes), from acclaimed Filipino director Mike De Leon.

University student Sid Lucero (Mark Gil) dreams of being a member of a prestigious fraternity known for its brutal hazing rituals, but after becoming one, he sees that the group's love of violence has made it an unchecked forced interested only in securing more power.

De Leon's film, an allegory about the Marcos regime, has been hailed as a milestone in Asian cinema.

WHERE: Oldham Theatre, 1 Canning Rise MRT: Dhoby Ghaut/ Fort Canning WHEN: Today, 8pm ADMISSION: $10 a ticket, $20 for three tickets and $30 for five tickets INFO: asianfilmarchive.org

UNCUT GEMS (NC16)

Streaming on Netflix/135 minutes/4.5 stats

In this bone-dry comedy about a guy who cannot catch a break, Adam Sandler's Howard Ratner is a debt-ridden New York jeweller and gambling fiend who has come to own a rock of great value - one studded with the minerals of the film's title.

By juggling a complex series of deals with hustler and sales assistant Demany (Lakeith Stanfield), a professional basketball player Kevin Garnett (playing himself), loan shark Arno (Eric Bogosian) and mistress-employee Julia (Julia Fox), he hopes to fix everything broken in his life.

The pieces do not quite fall into place for poor Howard, who sprints across New York City trying to shore up his collapsing plan, with each encounter more degrading than the last.

Part of the film's brilliance lies in Sandler's portrayal of Howard as the guy for whom everything that can go wrong, will.

In Sandler's hands, he is also emotionally vulnerable, capable of child-like glee one minute and sobbing self-pity the next. That softens his scummy behaviour somewhat, though this reviewer will understand if viewers find him repulsively glib.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2020, with the headline 'Film Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe