Cinephiles rejoice! After two hybrid-formatted, pandemic-affected editions, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is back in full force this year for its 33rd installment. Featuring a remarkable selection of 101 independent films from 55 countries. 2022’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 this year’s lineup.
Aftersun (UK / USA)
“11-year-old Sophie is on a budget holiday in Turkey with her young divorced dad Calum. On the cusp of adolescence, she is perceptive towards the pains of growing up as well as her dad’s subtle shifts in mood. As an adult, Sophie sifts through the home video footage she made on the trip, which continues to haunt her.
Shot through with sun-bleached nostalgia, Aftersun reassembles Sophie’s well-worn memories with an eye for the most intimate details, searching them for emotional clarity. The film eschews predictable narrative beats of revelation, and invites us to linger in its very particular heartbreak: what it’s like to love someone without ever fully understanding them.”
Screening on: Friday, 25th November at 6:30pm (Carnival, Golden Mile) | Sunday 4th December at 9:30pm (Filmgarde Kallang, Hall 3)
Leila’s Brothers (Iran)
“In cutthroat and corrupt Tehran, Leila cares for her elderly parents and four adult brothers. Its fortunes in sharp decline, the family is surrounded by wealth and respect that could have been theirs. Leila dreams of starting a family business as a way out of the smothering debts and to avoid spiraling into poverty. However, her plans are sabotaged by her self-pitying parents, unreliable band of brothers and gendered expectations.
Leila’s Brothers delivers a microcosm of patriarchy in Iran, with an emotionally charged screenplay that pierces through the veil of oppressive traditions. And in a society ruled by self-interest to the extreme, a family member would have no qualms throwing another under the bus just to get ahead.”
Screening on: Sunday, 27th November at 10am (Filmgarde Kallang, Hall 3)
“As summer approaches again, ripe peaches droop in an orchard that generations of the Solé family have been caring for. But this year is different: the air is thick with the odour of dead rabbits plaguing the crop and with the stench of a tragedy foretold. The Solés face their final harvest as eviction looms, and their peach trees will soon be replaced by solar panels.
Shot entirely with nonprofessional actors in the Alcarràs village, this semi-autobiographical work draws on the cast’s palpable connection to the land to depict a tight-knit family reckoning with the loss of its roots— and dignity. As summer comes to a close, the film’s gentle rhythms stir up buried grief and anxiety, yet also undeniable tenderness.”
Screening on: Monday, 28 November at 4pm (Oldham Theatre) | Sunday 4th December at 1:30pm (Filmgarde Kallang, Hall 3)
Leonor Will Never Die (Philippines)
“Former famed screenwriter Leonor leads a sorry retirement stuck with insufferable son Rudie and seeking solace in the ghost of her favourite son Ronwaldo. But all is not lost. When hit by a television set, Leonor enters the world of her unfinished script. She ecstatically lives the action drama she knows too well, its story a comedic catharsis of her repressed emotions. But as the movie speeds into the uncharted terrains of the script, Leonor must write the ending—by being the heroine it needs.
A homage to 1980s Filipino B-action flicks, this witty meta-pastiche weaves together the realities of the country’s politics into a heartfelt family story made anew by Escobar’s knack for the offbeat.”
Screening on: Saturday, 3rd December at 9pm (Oldham Theatre) | Sunday, 4th December at 11am (Filmgarde Kallang, Hall 2)
The Novelist’s Film (South Korea)
“In her 60s, reputed novelist Jun-hee struggles to fulfill her creative impulses while facing writer’s block. During a chance encounter with the younger Kil-soo who is on an acting hiatus, their instant connection sparks a creative collaboration: Jun-hee proposes to make a film starring Kil-soo.
This spare, intimate autofiction finds Hong Sangsoo at his most personal yet. What starts out as a self-referential examination on artistic freedom and its simple yet sensual pleasures evolves into something far more unexpected: a manifesto on his inimitable style— and a love letter. With its startling sincerity, the film mines new emotional depths from Hong’s expansive oeuvre, revealing the power of his cinema.”
Screening on: Saturday, 26th November at 9:30pm (Carnival, Golden Mile) | Sunday, 4th December at 9pm (Oldham Theatre)
No Bears (Iran)
“Jafar Panahi has just moved to a rural village to remotely oversee filming in a nearby town over the border. Parallel stories unfold across these situations as desires—those between partners, for a future, or to craft art—are suppressed by larger forces of social and political authority.
While naturalistic in style, No Bears blurs the bounds of documentary and fiction, deftly playing with and eluding narrative anticipation—its framing shaped by the conditions of state repression that Panahi and other filmmakers face in Iran. This reality of his intertwines with the worlds other characters inhabit, throwing loyalties, hierarchies and truths into question amid contentions of criminality and liberty.”
Screening on: Friday, 2nd December at 9:30pm (Carnival, Golden Mile)
Under The Fig Trees (Tunisia)
“In a remote fig orchard during the Tunisian summer, workers, many of them teenagers, undertake the laborious, meticulous task of fig-picking. As a respite from the tedium of work, the women flirt with the men while trading secrets and stories among themselves. Under the trees and away from their employer’s surveillance, the women navigate generational conflict and forge honest connections.
Unfolding over the course of a day, the workers’ interactions reveal rich emotions and hint at gender tensions in a patriarchal society. This intimate coming-of-age drama explores universal experiences of young love, female friendship and family ties, centring the experiences of young women.”
Screening on: Friday, 25th November at 9:30pm (Filmgarde Kallang, Hall 3)
“Quiet and mild-mannered Rakib is the housekeeper of a mansion belonging to former general Purna, who has returned to contest the local election. The two develop a father–son bond: Purna takes young Rakib under his wing, while Rakib gains confidence with his guidance. A dyed-in-the-wool autocrat, Purna does not tolerate even the slightest threat to his power. A defaced campaign banner sets off a violent reaction, and Rakib is soon forced to confront his own morality and complicity in an unjust system.
Though set in post-dictatorship Indonesia, Autobiography evokes terror reminiscent of the Suharto era. In a time where we see the rise of strongman rule, Autobiography is a sobering reminder of what could be if power is left unchecked and the people remain passive.”
Screening on: Saturday, 3rd December at 12:30pm (Golden Village Plaza Singapura, Hall 9)
“In a conservative multigenerational Pakistani household, soft-spoken Haider is pressured to find a job and to produce a male heir. After he lands a role as a backup dancer at an erotic dance theatre, his wife Mumtaz reluctantly leaves a job she enjoys at the behest of the family’s patriarch to become a housewife. While Mumtaz struggles in the domestic sphere, Haider falls for his boss, a confident, charismatic transgender dancer (played by transgender actress Alina Khan).
Joyland is a sensitive and humanistic portrayal of repressive gender and sexual norms, told with an astute blend of vulnerability and humour. With this highly accomplished feature debut, Saim Sadiq signals a bright future for Pakistani cinema.”
Screening on: Friday, 2nd December at 6:30pm (Golden Village Plaza Singapura, Hall 9)
Baby Queen (Singapore)
“With her striking Teochew opera-inspired makeup, Opera Tang has been making waves on the local drag scene since her debut in 2020. Through intimate vignettes of Opera’s personal life, the film chronicles her queer journey: from coming-out as a fledgling drag queen, falling in love, competing in drag pageants, to dressing up her supportive and charming 90-year-old grandma in drag.
Baby Queen illuminates the struggles and joys of becoming who you want to be, and what it means to carve out a safe space in a society that is at times cruel to those who are different. Candid and clear-eyed in its portrait of queer life, the film celebrates radical selfacceptance as a personal yet deeply political act.”
Screening on: Wednesday, 30th November at 8pm (Projector X: Picturehouse)
The 33rd edition of SGIFF takes place from 24th November to 4th December 2022. Early Bird tickets for SGIFFriends are available for purchase from 1st November, 12pm. Official ticket sales commence 2nd November, 12pm via SISTIC.
Click here for more information and ticketing details.