There’s an ongoing debate as to which movies belonged to the “art of cinema”, as director Ken Loach puts. He’s the latest to join in with fellow directors Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola in downplaying the “art” Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies possess. But if art, presumably referring to the elements in the film that reflect the events in real society, is what these directors want, then these four films from the 30th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) hit the spot.

Continuing our scrutiny of the SGIFF line-up, we focus on films from Asian Vision, Cinema Today, Midnight Mayhem, and Classics.

Asian Vision

SGIFF introduced this category, comprising 13 films from Vietnam, Cambodia, Tibet, Korea, and even Afghanistan, to acknowledge that films from these countries are shaping the Asian film landscape. We take a look at Hassan Fazili’s Midnight Traveler (Afghanistan).

A movie still from the 30th SGIFF's 'Midnight Traveller'.
A movie still from the 30th SGIFF’s ‘Midnight Traveller’.

Midnight Traveller is based on the real-life events of the director. In 2015, Fazili and his family found themselves having to flee Afghanistan to Tajikstan, after the Taliban placed a bounty on him for profiling an ex-Taliban commander in a documentary film.

Fun fact: this film was recorded with three old generation iPhones, establishing the strength of Apple’s cameras as documentary tools.

Midnight Traveller premieres on 23 November, 2.15 pm, at The Projector (Green Room). Ticket information here.

Cinema Today

The search for identity, the turbulent dynamics of a marriage, the psychological effect of loneliness, and the faltered acceptance of LGBTQ. These are some topics covered under the Cinema Today category, by a slew of films that call on the talents of Scarlett Johansson, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe among others. We look at Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ Swallow (USA).

A movie still from the 30th SGIFF's 'Swallow'.
A movie still from the 30th SGIFF’s ‘Swallow’.

Swallow follows a housewife who spends her days waiting for her husband and her nights waiting on him. To the delight of everyone but herself, she learns that she’s pregnant. In spite of this, her eating disorder, called pica, prevails. And the protagonist starts to eat inedible objects like a marble, and even a thumbtack. Note: this film is not for the faint-hearted. It reportedly made an audience faint when it aired during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

Swallow premieres on 25 November, 7 pm, at the National Museum of Singapore (Gallery Theatre). Ticket information here.

midnight mayhem

This category consolidates the wildest and weirdest films in the genres of action, horror, fantasy and thriller. There are five films up for selection, but let’s look at Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium (Ireland).

A movie still from the 30th SGIFF's 'Vivarium'.
A movie still from the 30th SGIFF’s ‘Vivarium’.

Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, Vivarium is very much like doing a reality check on a couple’s future; whether they are ready to settle down in their relationship, or even have a baby. This movie reminds the audience why and how commitment can be daunting.

Vivarium premieres on 23 November, 11.55 pm, at the Filmgarde Bugis + (Hall 6); 25 November, 4.30 pm, at Oldham Theatre. Ticket information here.


SGIFF didn’t neglect the value of classic movies that have entertained audiences for years. There are two films up for grabs: Palme d’Or-winning director Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder and Asian legend Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Flowers of Shanghai. We look at Bong’s Memories of Murder (South Korea).

A movie still from the 30th SGIFF's 'Memories of Murder'.
A movie still from the 30th SGIFF’s ‘Memories of Murder’.

This classic goes way back, before Ho’s recent award-winning Parasite, Snowpiercer with actor Chris Evans in 2013 and Netflix Original’s Okja in 2017. Inspired by the true events in South Korea, Memories of Murder is a detective film set in 1986, about the rape and murder of a number of women. According to the LA Times, the man responsible for these heinous crimes came forward, after almost three decades, and is now arrested.

Memories of Murder premieres on 23 November, 2 pm, at The Projector (Redrum). Ticket information here.

written by.
Lester Tan
Lester is into films, food and basically anything culture related under the sun.

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