The Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is the longest established film event in Singapore. It was founded in 1987 by Geoffrey Malone, a Singapore permanent resident, and L. Leland Whitney, a board member of the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF) in San Francisco. The SGIFF aims to foster an appreciation for film and the film-making process through seminars and workshops as well as by providing access to international and Singapore films. It also aspires to be a platform that will nurture local filmmakers and a showcase for world and Asian cinema. The SGIFF is the first Asian international film festival to introduce a competition segment for Asian feature films and Singapore short films through the introduction of the Silver Screen Awards in 1991. The competition has helped raise the profile of regional filmmakers by exhibiting and exposing their works to a wider international audience.
The idea of a film festival took root in 1986 when Geoffrey Malone visited the MVFF and was inspired to start one in Singapore. Having been involved in the 1970s Australian New Wave, he saw opportunities to stimulate Singapore’s dormant film production industry through a film festival. To accomplish this, he turned to the organisers of the MVFF for help with hospitality, programming, volunteer management and ticketing. First Film Festival Production Pte Ltd, a non-profit organisation, was set up to manage the first SGIFF. Subsequent festivals were, however, managed by a local committee helmed by Malone, film critic Philip Cheah, arts administrator Teo Swee Leng and architect Lesley Ho.
The inaugural festival ran from 20 February to 1 March 1987. It opened with The Name of the Rose, a historical mystery directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, and closed with The Mission by Roland Joffe. In the 10 days, a total of 53 films from 21 countries were screened. The festival began as a biannual affair and had a decidedly American slant in its programming. By the second instalment of the festival in 1989, the identity of the festival began to take shape with a strong Asian focus in its programme. It has been held annually since then, with the exception of 2012 to 2013 when it took a hiatus. The SGIFF has been instrumental in developing the local film industry and discovering new talent. It has also managed to stimulate interest in Singapore’s film history through the Silver Screen Awards, screening of new Singapore short films, features, documentaries, as well as retrospective selections produced during the heyday of Singapore’s studio era in the 1940s to the 1970s.
The 25th edition of the SGIFF will be held from 4 to 14 December 2014. In March 2014, Yuni Hadi and Zhang Wenjie, two former directors of the SGIFF, were appointed to helm this edition. Hadi is the executive director, while Zhang is the festival director.
1. Singapore International Film Festival. (n.d.). History. Retrieved August 19, 2014, from Singapore International Film Festival website: http://sgiff.com/about-the-festival/history/
2. Udhe, J., & Udhe, Y. N. (2010). Latent images: Film in Singapore (p. 222). Singapore: Ridge Book. Call no.: RSING 384.8095957 UHD; Singapore International Film Festival website.
3. Udhe & Udhe, 2010, p. 221.
4. Udhe & Udhe, 2010, p. 222; Tan, S. (2000). Singapore. In J. F. Lacaba (Ed.), The films of ASEAN (pp. 145–146). Philippines: ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information. Call no.: RSING 791.430959 FIL; Tan, K. C. S. (1987, February 6). Society is not involved in film festival. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Ong, C. (1987, February 6). It’s a multinational feast. The Straits Times, p. 28.; Page 29 Miscellaneous Column 1: Your guide to the first International Film Festival. (1987, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Films and stars galore. (1987, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Udhe & Udhe, 2010, pp. 223–224.
8. Udhe & Udhe, 2010, pp. 223–251; Chan, B. (2014, March 25). New team for Singapore film fest. The Straits Times, Life!. Retrieved August 19, 2014, from Factiva.
9. Tan, 2000, pp. 145–150; Udhe & Udhe, 2010, pp. 221–251.
10. Singapore International Film Festival. (n.d.). Festival team. Retrieved August 19, 2014, from Singapore International Film Festival website: http://sgiff.com/about-the-festival/festival-team
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.