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SGIFF: Shorts Panorama Showcases Diversity of Singapore Talent

Most of Singapore’s current crop of globally-known filmmakers cut their teeth on short films. And the format continues to be a popular one in the city-state. The Singapore International Film Festival’s Singapore Panorama shorts strand showcased some of the best and most diverse new local work at the National Museum of Singapore on Nov. 29 and 30.

“A Dance For Ren Hang” was made by Lei Yuan Bin in conjunction with Brussels-based Singaporean dancer Sara Tan. The short sees dancers re-enact images by the late Chinese erotic photographer Ren Hang, who died in 2017 at the age of 30. Lei is one of the founders of Singaporean filmmakers’ collective 13 Little Pictures, and has also directed two features and a documentary.

Leon Cheo has directed several shorts and the television series “People Like Us.” His new short “SIN-SFO” was in competition at the Austin Film Festival and follows a couple on a drive to San Francisco as they discuss their decision to give up their birth citizenships.

Mei Ann Teo is also an experienced filmmaker, documentarian and theatre director whose recent work includes “Dim Sum Warriors,” a musical adaptation of the popular graphic novels. Her new short “Let Me Kill My Mother First” sees a bold teenager venture into an imaginary world in order to attain skills required to counter her abusive mother.

After adapting Haruki Murakami in “Max” and exploring ancestry, migration, history, modernity, the Chinese diaspora and the Teochew cuisine in “Fishing For Roots”, Los Angeles based Singaporean Tan Siyou focuses on a woman who waits her turn in the electric chair, diving into her memories in “2200 Volts.”

Kris Ong, who was an assistant producer on multi award-winning Singaporean co-production “Pop Aye”, has made a few shorts and music videos. Her new short “You Idiot” is set on the streets at night and involves the writing of a song. In “Salted Egg,” filmmaker Nikki Koh goes to Hainan, her mother’s homeland, to find a unique dying recipe for salted egg. In the process she gets in touch with her roots.

There are plenty of shorts by film students in the Singapore Panorama. Grace Swee, an M.F.A. Film student at Columbia, showcased “Distance,” in which the protagonist’s mother returns from the grave. Tisch School of the Arts student, Chew Chia Shao Min “May And June” about a pair of teenage fencers on a quest of self-discovery. Fellow Tisch student, Carin Leong, presents “Songs Of Our Memories,” where an opera singer seeks to conserve the legacy of Havana’s Chinatown.

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