Press Release from the Singapore International Film Festival:
SGIFF returns this year after a two-year hiatus, with an entirely new team that is set on making this year’s festival a truly stimulating one. The festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and will be held from December 4 to 14. With a focus on groundbreaking Asian cinema and discovering new film talents from Southeast Asia, SGIFF is known for its dynamic film programming and commitment to the development of a vibrant local film culture.
It will screen over 100 feature and short films, of all genres, from 50 countries, across 10 sections – Opening and Closing Films; Special Presentation; Silver Screen Awards; Filmmaker in Focus; Singapore Panorama; Asian Vision; Cinema Today; Documentary; Classics; and A Tribute. The festival will take place at multiple screening venues including Marina Bay Sands, Shaw Theatres Lido, National Museum of Singapore, The Projector (formerly Golden Theatre) and The Arts House.
Yuni Hadi, Executive Director of SGIFF said: “The return of the Singapore International Film Festival in our 25th year is significant in so many ways, one of which is to celebrate how far we’ve come in Singapore cinema. To open with Ken Kwek’s Unlucky Plaza marks SGIFF’s commitment to the Singapore film community and our wider role within the industry. We’re honoured to have the film kick off the festival, and play our part in promoting a Singapore film that we can all be proud of. We hope that as we continue to grow with our industry, an occasion like this will not be a rarity.”
Of the opening film, Unlucky Plaza, the press release has this to say:
Unlucky Plaza is a story about one man’s financial woes that spiral into a harrowing crisis. When he is further outdone by a financial scam, he takes a group of people hostage in a millionaire’s bungalow and the crisis, captured on video, sparks an international outcry. A multi-character thriller from one of Asia’s most exciting young filmmakers, Unlucky Plaza navigates among three narrative threads in order to create a dramatic statement about the things we do for money. It stars Filipino actor Epy Quizon in the lead role. The other parts are taken by local veteran stage and screen actors Adrian Pang, Judee Tan, Shane Mardjuki, Janice Koh, Pamela Oei, who is Kwek’s wife, and television host and actor Guo Liang. The film’s title is a play on Lucky Plaza, the Orchard Road mall known for its businesses serving Filipino residents.
Ken Kwek was born in Singapore and attended Cambridge University. He has written and directed the shorts anthology Sex.Violence.FamilyValues. Unlucky Plaza is his first feature, which debuted in the Discovery section at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.
The Filmmaker in Focus is Egyptian Abdalla El Sayed Abdelkader:
In keeping with the festival’s spirit of unearthing new talent, 36-year-old Ahmad Abdalla El Sayed Abdelkader, an Egyptian film director, editor and screenwriter, has been confirmed as this year’s Filmmaker in Focus. SGIFF will feature his latest film Décor (2014), a psychological drama set in Cairo about a woman struggling to know what she wants, and have her own choices in life. The main character is obsessed with old Egyptian films, which she keeps playing on VHS. In keeping with the classic theme, the entire film is played out in black and white, the first Egyptian film to use this format since Mohamed Fadel’s 1996 drama Nasser 56, about the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Décor will have its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival next month, and its Asian premiere at SGIFF in December.
Zhang Wenjie, Festival Director of SGIFF said: “Ahmad Abdalla is one of the most exciting young filmmakers working in Egyptian cinema today. In a few short years, he has created an impressive body of work that passionately and eloquently articulates the changes and issues affecting Egyptian society today, especially concerning the younger generation. What sets Abdalla apart is his adroitness in adopting new forms and methods in his filmmaking, so that each new film from him is an exciting and unexpected fresh discovery. His latest film Décor, which pays homage to the rich heritage of Egyptian cinema is no exception, and we are proud to have him as our Filmmaker In Focus, and showcase his outstanding works.”
Originally a musician who learned to play the viola, Ahmad Abdalla has three highly acclaimed feature films under his belt – Heliopolis (2009), Microphone (2011) and Rags and Tatters (2013) – and awards from the Carthage Film Festival, Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival and Istanbul International Film Festival. He later began working as a film editor in 1999, then moved to feature-length films in 2002, and began doubling as a visual effects supervisor and credits designer.