New programme director eyes regional fame for S’pore Film Fest

New programme director eyes regional fame for S’pore Film Fest
Pioneer Thai female filmmaker Pimpaka Towira will be taking over as programme director at the Singapore International Film Festival from this year's edition. Photo: Singapore International Film Fesitval
Veteran Thai film-maker plans to elevate profile of local event throughout Asia
Published: 4:00 AM, August 7, 2017
Updated: 5:14 AM, August 7, 2017

SINGAPORE — The Singapore International Film Festival’s (SGIFF) new programme director Pimpaka Towira has grand plans to make the annual event as prestigious as the Busan International Film Festival.

The 50-year-old veteran film-maker from Thailand, who takes the helm at SGIFF from Sept 1, believes it is a “very exciting” time for Singapore cinema, which in turn presents an opportunity to showcase Singapore’s diversity through film.

A familiar name on the international cinema circuit, Towira is no stranger to Singapore films. “I do programming for Thailand, so I have seen Singapore films. I like A Yellow Bird; Pop Aye, which was shot in Thailand; Apprentice, and Ilo Ilo,” she said.

She added that there is so much more to Singapore which is not immediately obvious, “but when we saw the films, we saw so many diverse elements (of Singapore).

“You can see (this in) A Yellow Bird. It’s an amazing film that was done very well. Also, Apprentice — I never thought this kind of film could be made (in) Singapore. It opened my mind. That’s the thing — (film) can tell more stories. If the cinema scene keeps going on like this, people will know more about Singapore than what they hear and see,” Towira added.

Before coming to Singapore, Towira was programme director of the Bangkok International Film Festival and, most recently, programme director of Bangkok Asean Film Festival from 2015 to 2017. She was also on the jury for various film festivals, including the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, Yamagata Documentary Film Festival, and Hong Kong Film Festival.

Her experimental short films depicting women’s issues have been screened at international festivals, including SGIFF. Her second feature, The Island Funeral, won several awards at various international film festivals such as the Tokyo International Film Festival 2015.

Towira’s vision for SGIFF is for it to achieve the recognition and prestige accorded to events such as the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), which is widely regarded as the premier film festival in Asia. “We would like to push the (SGIFF) festival to another level through more collaborations in the region,” she said.

Towira cited the existing SGIFF Southeast Asian Film Lab programme as an example of the kind of mentorship and incubation programmes they intend to organise more of, and with more film-makers across the region. Launched in 2014, Southeast Asian Film Lab connects emerging film-makers from the region embarking on their first feature-length films.

Towira takes over from Zhang Wenjie, who left after last year’s event.

Founded in 1987, SGIFF has become an iconic event on Singapore’s arts calendar, and is known for its dynamic programming and focus on groundbreaking Asian cinema. The 28th SGIFF is scheduled to be held at the end of this year.

Said festival executive director Yuni Hadi: “With Pimpaka joining the team, we are confident it will help us forge an even closer relationship between the festival and regional film practitioners.”