30th Singapore International Film Festival: 10 SGIFF Premieres that you shouldn’t miss

Cinephiles rejoice! The Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) has just announced yet another impressive line-up for this year’s milestone 30th edition. With over 90 acclaimed films by auteurs from 40 countries, 2019’s programming continues to bring us the best from arthouse cinema around the globe. While every single movie listed is probably worth your time, we’re guessing that most film buffs can’t spare the time (or cash) to watch them all. And that’s why we here at Popwire have taken the time to narrow the field down for you! These are our most-anticipated films from the 30th SGIFF.


16-year-old Milla is the kind of girl one might envy: comfortably middle-class, goes to a private all-girls’ school, and doted upon by two loving and liberal parents. Except that Milla has been diagnosed with cancer. Now, the only thing she wants to do with her numbered days is make the kind of choices a girl like her would typically disavow, beginning with falling head over heels for a tattooed and refreshingly brazen small-time drug dealer.

The first feature from Australian filmmaker Shannon Murphy, Babyteeth looks like the kind of powerful, perverse and  eccentric coming-of-age story that we dig. Plus, this looks to be an ideal showcase for the phenomenal Eliza Scanlen, who impressed in HBO’s Sharp Objects last year.

The Projector – Green Room, Sun, 24 Nov 2019 / 1:00 PM

Filmgarde Bugis+ – Hall 3, Sat, 30 Nov 2019 / 7:00 PM

Downton Abbey

After a six-series television run and four-year hiatus, the Crawleys are finally back for first time on the big screen. Picking up right where they left off, the film follows the adventures of the Crawleys upstairs and their staff downstairs.

As huge fans of Julian Fellowes’ very English period drama about class divisions and the eroding aristocracy – we’re incredibly excited to see Downton Abbey’s beloved characters (both upstairs and downstairs) return for one last scandal-filled hurrah on the big screen!

Capitol Theatre, Fri, 22 Nov 2019 / 8:00 PM

First Love

Boxer Leo just discovered that he has a brain tumour. With nothing to lose, he attempts to save troubled prostitute Yuri from a crooked policeman and her drug addiction. What follows is a comically violent hard-boiled affair featuring a psychopathic yakuza youngling, a grieving murderous girlfriend and a one-armed shotgun-wielding assassin.

This latest from controversial Japanese auteur Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition) looks to be another hard-boiled and hysterically violent crime thriller masterpiece. We’re looking forward to seeing Miike’s colourful palette of gangsters, romance, comedy and bloodshed once again.

Filmgarde Bugis Hall 6, Fri, 29 Nov 2019 / 11:55 PM

Marriage Story

Marriage Story is Academy Award nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach’s incisive and compassionate portrait of a marriage breaking up and a family staying together. The film stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta co-star.

Writer-director Noah Baumbach is one of the greatest filmmakers working today, and his newest starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson promises to be a grueling and graceful domestic drama. Few capture the messy intimacy of relationships with as much empathy as Baumbach.

The Projector – Green Room, Sat, 23 Nov 2019 / 8:00 PM


High in the mountains, eight teenage guerrillas form a cult-like paramilitary unit with a simple mission: babysit a prisoner and a cow. Their days are filled with puppy love, campfire dances and psychedelic trips on dung-grown shrooms—until a stray bullet puts an end to their adolescent antics, driving them down the mountain and right into the heart of darkness.

If Guillermo del Toro called a movie “mesmerizing” and its director “a powerful new voice in cinema,” you’d want to see that movie, right? Helmed by Alejandro Landes, Monos is billed as the “Colombian Lord of the Flies”, and is scored by Oscar-nominated composer Mica Levi.

National Museum Singapore, Gallery Theatre, Mon, 25 Nov 2019 / 9:15 PM

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Seductively tantalising yet graceful, the film explores desires, social norms and female subjugation in a picturesque 18th-century France. Héloïse, a countess’ daughter, is to be forcefully engaged to a Milanese man; against her will, her mother commissions a portrait to elicit the marriage proposal. Marianne is invited to paint her, and under the guise of a female companion to Héloïse, she observes her subject on their walks and through stolen glances.

Anyone paying attention to the film festival circuit in 2019 is surely anticipating Céline Sciamma’s queer romance, Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The new drama from the Tomboy and Girlhood director premiered at Cannes to instant rave reviews and a Best Screenplay award.

Filmgarde Bugis, Hall 3, Sat, 23 Nov 2019 / 9:30 PM

Oldham Theatre, Sat, 30 Nov 2019 / 10:00 PM

Ride Your Wave

Happiness is the open ocean for 19-year-old surfer girl Hinako—until her coastal home catches on fire. To her rescue comes 21-year-old firefighter Minato, who has his own history with the sea. Sparks fly between them, but a coming storm will test if Hinako can navigate the currents of life as well as she rides the waves of the ocean.

Masaaki Yuasa has made a career out of weird yet beautifully crafted anime – from the trippy and enthralling Mind Game, to the loopy Lu Over The Wall, to the brutally graphic Devilman Crybaby. His latest looks to be an emotional and eye-popping exploration of love and grief.

The Projector – Redrum, Sat, 23 Nov 2019 / 11:30 AM

The Lighthouse

A foghorn score underlines the first meeting between Ephraim Winslow and Thomas Wake. Both men are confined to an island as lighthouse keepers. Apprentice Winslow is enthralled by the lantern, but his weathered partner distrustingly keeps the logs and keys. As Winslow fantasises about what lies behind the shining beacon, the lines between mythology and reality begin to blur. With spilled beans and battered seabirds, an ominous storm approaches, and tensions between the two become inevitable.

The latest psychodrama from The Witch director Robert Eggers has stirred up acclaim at Cannes and TIFF – and we’re eager to see Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson lose their damn minds. Shot in black-and-white on 35mm film, The Lighthouse’s unique look is also intriguing.

The Projector – Green Room, Sun, 24 Nov 2019 / 7:30 PM


Ng Meixi returns to Singapore having spent time in Mexico working with low-performing students. She joins a local school as a relief teacher but takes on a mammoth task: to pilot a new pedagogy to help students in the Normal (Technical) stream learn better. She reconfigures the classroom from a teacher-directed one to a community that aims to empower students as learners and tutors to each other. Will this work in Singapore’s result-oriented education system?

After working on America to Me (a 10-part documentary on racial inequity in American schools), documentarian Yong Shu Ling now turns her focus to her home country’s education system. Unteachable’s insight into teachers and teens on the margins feels like an eye-opening watch.

National Museum Singapore, Tue, 26 Nov 2019 / 7:00 PM

Vitalina Varela

Pedro Costa’s seventh feature film sheds light on the underbelly yet again. Vitalina Varela follows a recently-widowed Cape Verdean woman who goes to Portugal for the first time to attend her husband’s funeral. Bitterness is plenty as she comes to know his life through the post-mortem condolences and theatrics that follow.

Pedro Costa’s lyrical, neo-realist vision of Cape Verdean immigrants once again delves into the shantytown Fontainhas (outside of Lisbon) for his latest feature. This Locarno Film Festival standout is Costa’s fifth entry into a series of films that stems back to 2006’s Colossal Youth.

National Museum Singapore, Gallery Theatre, Tue, 26 Nov 2019 / 9:30 PM

The 30th SGIFF, which runs from 21 November to 1 December 2019, will be hosted across multiple Festival venues, including Capitol Theatre, National Museum of Singapore, National Gallery Singapore, Oldham Theatre, The Projector, Filmgarde Bugis+, Golden Village Grand and Objectifs Centre for Photography & Filmmaking. For tickets and more information, please visit the official website.