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Singapore Festival Launches in Understated Style

Shopping-mall glamour and a red carpet flanked by designer stores greeted Singapore’s film community and visiting celebrities for Thursday night’s opening of the 28th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF).

The celebrities who walked the red carpet through the high-end Marina Bay Sands mall mostly left the highest couture in the store windows. Many instead went for sedate touches of lace, minimal glitz, and daytime outfits.

The evening’s glamour moments went to SGIFF vice chair Soo Wei Shaw, who swept the red carpet in a floor-length black gown, and Indian actress, Waheeda Rehman (“The Song of Scorpions”), in a red and pink brocade sari and traditional jewelry.

Introducing the opening film, Vivian Qu’s “Angels Wear White,” SGIFF chairman Mike Wiluan told theater-goers gathered in the lower levels of the 2,000-plus seat theater that the festival was a “torchlight” for aspiring storytellers, himself included. After decades in the film industry as a producer, financier and facilitator, Wiluan revealed that he is making his debut as a director. His “Buffalo Boys” is currently in post-production and scheduled to release in 2018.

The SGIFF opening also marks the start of this year’s Singapore Media Festival (SMF), which runs over the next 11 days. The umbrella event includes conferences, film and TV content markets and a TV awards show.

The chairman of the SMF advisory board, Rob Gilby, said Singapore’s up-and-coming filmmakers were finding a stronger regional voice in the stories they were telling and the films they are making. He mentioned Singapore-born Kirsten Tan’s “Pop Aye,” about a disenchanted architect on a voyage of discovery across Thailand with his childhood elephant. The film claimed a major prize when it was presented at Sundance earlier this year.

A former Disney executive, Gilby also said the rise of streaming platforms was giving local filmmakers unprecedented creative freedom and distribution opportunities. Many are backing original content production in Southeast Asia.

“The streaming landscape is providing a catalyst for local filmmakers to tell new Asian stories,” he said.

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