Singaporean filmmakers speak up through film

Alycia Lim
Alycia Lim
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Winners pose with their awards after the SGIFF Silver Screen Awards ceremony at Marina Bay Sands.

Morality against legality. That’s what inspired Singaporean filmmaker Kirsten Tan, 33, to shoot ‘Dahdi,’ a short film that won the Best Southeast Asia Short Film award at the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) Silver Screen Awards.

The idea behind the film came about after Tan read a news story in December 2012 about a group of Rohingya refugees who were turned away by the Singapore authorities.

“I felt emotional and upset about the news, so I decided to make a film on a hypothetical situation based on that, Tan said.

The film revolves around a young Rohingya girl who escapes and is found by an old lady in her home in Singapore and the conversations they have before the police arrive to take her away.

“This was my thesis film for my masters at New York University, and probably my last short film before moving on to feature films.

“It felt meaningful to come back to Singapore for this because I made my first short film here,” said Tan, who will soon be embarking on a feature film project with filmmaker Anthony Chen.

For Shijie Tan, 33, it was also his thesis film that won him the Best Singapore short film award.

Aptly titled, ‘Not Working Today,’ his film touches upon the injustices that foreign workers face in Singapore.

He explains that foreign workers face various issues – from salary problems to racking up medical bills due to their job hazards, which don’t get settled by their employers as they should be.

“As I found out more about their situation and their feelings, I realised this film needed to be made,” he said.

In the Asian Feature Film category, it was Indian filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane who bagged two awards – one for best film and another for best director with his film ‘Court.’

The film tells the story of a Dalit folk singer who is tried for abetting the suicide of a manhole worker through music.
 
At only 27, Tamhane’s first feature film also won the Lion of the Future best debut award at the 2014 Venice Film Festival recently.

The Silver Screen Awards was a glittery affair graced by filmmaking heavyweights Natassja Kinski, Chen Bolin, Cheng Pei Pei among others, who walked the red carpet before the awards ceremony.

It saw a total of 11 feature films and 19 short films, including five Singaporean short films.