Local Films in Singapore – Verve Arts Festival 2020

5 Films

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5 Local Films to Catch on Netflix

        Whichever genre you fancy, there is a Made in Singapore film for you.


2018 | Documentary | 1h 36m 


Directed by Sandi Tan 

The Sundance award-winning documentary by Singapore-born filmmaker Sandi Tan tells the story of herself, when the first feature that she had made with her friends as a teenager in 1992, was stolen before it could be finished. Shattered by its disappearance, Sandi leaves for the UK. Twenty years later, the unseen footage is miraculously back in Sandi’s hands. Tan decides to return to Singapore to delve into the film she thought she had lost for good. Not only is the story behind the documentary exceptionally unique, Tan’s style is also sui generis. It is a satisfying film. Twisted but in its entirety, makes perfect sense. 


Directed by Anthony Chen 

 Ilo Ilo was the first Singaporean film to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is set in 1997 Singapore, and follows a family as they go through life with their domestic helper, Teresa. Ilo Ilo honestly portrays a very typical Singaporean family’s life in the heartlands. A striking theme in the film is material wealth and how the allure and lack of it affects everyone in the family – each of them lie about money at one point. Ilo Ilo is remarkably relatable and a must-see for every Singaporean. An affinity to each of the characters is irrepressible.

Ilo Ilo

2013 | Drama, Family | 1h 39m 

A Land Imagined

2018 | Mystery, Neo-noir | 1h 36m  


Directed by Yeo Siew Hua 

A migrant worker goes missing in a land reclamation site and a local detective goes in search of him. Singaporean filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua shatters the illusion of a pristine and wealthy Singapore. The Singapore that we are familiar with is economically advanced and based upon new and innovative technologies of construction. The unfamiliar scenes are those of its development: grimy construction sites, sky-high cranes and heavy-duty trucks. Yeo was inspired by his encounters with migrant workers in Singapore who he says have become invisible to the consciousness of a larger society. The film puts them and their stories in the forefront. A Land Imagined won the Locarno Film Festival’s top prize, the Golden Leopard. 


Directed by Royston Tan 

They met during the Ghost Festival and formed a deep familial bond at once. The heroines soon realise their dream to become Singapore’s most popular getai duo, known as the Papaya Sisters and nicknamed Big Papaya and Small Papaya. Hence the title “881” since it is pronounced “ba ba yao” in Mandarin which sounds like papaya. Big Papaya was a diligent student and did well at school, while Small Papaya had to make every effort. It is revealed very early on in the film that Small Papaya would die of cancer at the age of 25. The film pays immense tribute to a uniquely Singaporean form of getai and provides the colourful setting for an extravagant and heartening tale of friendship.  


2007 | Musical, Drama | 1h 55m 

Revenge of the Pontianak

2019 | Horror, Thriller | 1h 32m 


Directed by Gavin Yap and Glen Goei 

The Pontianak is Southeast Asia’s most famous folklore of women who return as ghosts after dying at childbirth. Revenge of the Pontianak scored the highest-grossing weekend take of any Malay-language movie in recent years. The film marked director Glen Goei’s return to the big screen since the release of his 2009 murder mystery The Blue Mansion. Co-directed with Malaysian actor and director Gavin Yap, the film puts a spin on the film’s antagonist by humanising her with a romantic storyline. The horror flick is set in Malaysia and performed in Malay – a nod to the golden age of filmmaking in Singapore before the 70s, an era where iconic Pontianak films were first produced by Cathay-Keris and Shaw.  

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