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Singapore International Film Festival Celebrates Singaporean Social Satires and Asian Spy Genre4 min read

12 October 2017 4 min read


Singapore International Film Festival Celebrates Singaporean Social Satires and Asian Spy Genre4 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

From the official SGIFF media release: 

Films help us to understand cultures and people through stories that document who we are and our society at the time. To honour timeless classics and their artistry, the 28th Singapore International Film Festival will celebrate the 15th anniversary of two iconic films of Singapore cinema – Jack Neo’s I Not Stupid and Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen’s TalkingCock The Movie ““ under its Singapore Panorama section. It will also cast a spotlight on the trend-setting Asian spy genres between 1950s and early 1980s in its Classics section titled Secret Spies Never Die! in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

15th anniversary of I Not Stupid and TalkingCock The Movie
I Not Stupid_2 TalkingCock The Movie_1 (1)
Film stills from I Not Stupid (L) and TalkingCock The Movie (R)


A country with its quirks and all, it is no surprise that I Not Stupid (2002) by Jack Neo and TalkingCock The Movie (2002) by Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh earned a place in the hearts of audiences in the wake of their releases, with authentic on-screen portrayals of the Singapore society back in the day.

From Jack Neo’s social commentary of hot button topics in a high-strung nation such as the education system, to the irreverent imagining of local archetypes and affairs of Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh, the two domestic dramas sparkle with originality and confidence as they poke good-natured fun at Singaporeans, their obsessions, and local politics ““ an approach rarely seen in Singapore at that time.

SGIFF Executive Director, Yuni Hadi, said, “Local social satire was at its infancy then and I Not Stupid and TalkingCock The Movie struck a chord with the local audience because these films were one of the firsts that engaged with subjects close to the hearts of Singaporeans in a humorous but honest lens. This approach sparked discussions and created a relevance to the role of Singapore film. Congratulations to Jack Neo, Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh on their films’ 15th year milestone.”

A box office success, I Not Stupid went on to receive international recognition at the Golden Bauhinia Awards (Best Chinese Film) and 2002 Taiwan Golden Torch Awards (Best Chinese Humanitarian Film). It was also nominated for Best Asian Film at the 2003 Hong Kong Film Awards.

Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh went on to win several awards, including Europe’s largest screenwriting prize at the 2007 San Sebastian International Film Festival and also the Best Asian Film Award at the 2008 Tokyo International Film Festival for their second feature, Singapore Dreaming.

Asian spy genre as part of SGIFF’s first thematic Classics section
3 Operation Revenge1 Hand of Fate (1)
Film stills from Operation Revenge (L) and Hand of Fate (R)


While most are familiar with western spy films such as the James Bond titles, Asian auteurs had in fact introduced a distinct regional flavour to their very own suspenseful espionage films. Hence, for the first time in Festival history, the 28th SGIFF will also introduce a theme to its Classics section. Titled Secret Spies Never Die!, the Festival will collaborate with Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, to present Asian spy genre in its formative years between 1950s and 1980s before the Kung Fu movie boom took over.

From Korean director Hang Hyeong-mo’s The Hand of Fate (1954) made at a time when the country was struggling towards recovery in the wake of the Korean war, to Singapore’s very own Gerak Kilat (1966) by Jamil Sulong, and the first Australian-Hong Kong co-production The Man from Hong Kong (1975), the Festival’s Classics line-up draws attention to the region’s unique storytelling style of the popular cult genre which hit its peak during the Cold War era.

SGIFF Programme Director, Pimpaka Towira, said, “Asian cinema fascinates with its cultural richness and diversity. As we explore its development from pure espionage storylines, to the eventual mash-up with martial art styles, Asian spy genre speaks of the region’s high adaptability to produce blistering cinematic legacy with a distinct Asian voice. We are also appreciative of the collaboration with Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information which brings about this noteworthy sampler of the spy genre from yesteryear.”

Speaking on the screenings of these defining films of the region at this year’s Festival, Yuni Hadi added, “The Singapore International Film Festival has always championed dynamic and bold voices in Asian cinema. Whether it’s the Singaporean social satires or the Asian spy genre, at the core of it all is our drive to tell stories that reflect the intricacies of our diverse cultures while inspiring one to pause and reflect. The Festival creates that meeting point for filmmakers and audiences, framing the importance of telling our own stories, and being that space for them to be told.”

The 28th SGIFF, which runs from 23 November to 3 December 2017, will take place across various venues, including Marina Bay Sands, Shaw Theatres Lido, National Museum of Singapore, National Gallery Singapore, The Arts House, Filmgarde Bugis+, Objectifs and *SCAPE.

The SGIFF is an event of the Singapore Media Festival, hosted by Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA). SGIFF’s Official Sponsors include Presenting Sponsor since 2014, Marina Bay Sands; Official Festival Time Partner, IWC Schaffhausen; Official Automobile, BMW and Official Airline, Singapore Airlines.

The full festival line-up and ticketing details will be announced in end October 2017.

(Images courtesy of 28th SGIFF)

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