Special Focus


Films that capture the reality of transition


The Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium, Level B1

Arcadia   Double bill: Glimpse & Central Airport THF   In Jackson Heights   Motherland   The Seen and Unseen


Asian Premiere

By Paul Wright

Arcadia - Paul Wright

Sun 14 Oct | 2pm

Sun 28 Oct | 7.30pm

United Kingdom | In English | 2017 | 79 min | M18 (Nduity and drug use)



“Once upon a time, in the heart of the British countryside, there lived a fair maiden who, try as she might, could not fit into the world around her […] and was told that the answers to all her problems lay within the land around her.”


Director Paul Wright draws from a century of audio-visual archives to construct an extraordinary film essay on the British people’s complex and ever-shifting relationship to the land. Arcadia begins with a voiceover recounting the tale of “a fair maiden” whose search for answers takes the viewer through imagery that characterises the four seasons, which gives the film its structure. The film employs this allegory to illustrate how the British people’s intimate connection with nature—and with each other—have gradually disintegrated: Spring’s pastoral idylls pass into Summer’s village fêtes from Britain’s pagan past, before leading to Autumn’s mechanised depletion of the land and Winter’s political extremism and death.

Arcadia sets a blend of footage from the BFI National Archive, regional archives and British films like Winstanley (1975) to an original score that weaves together new compositions by Portishead’s Adrian Utley and Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory, with Anne Briggs’ folk songs and sounds from nature. The result is a hypnotic experience; visceral cinema that invokes the magic and madness of rural Britain. With this look back at history, Arcadia reminds us that we may yet find a way to (re)write the future.

Arcadia was part of the official selection at the BFI London Film Festival (2017) and the Glasgow Film Festival (2018).


Paul Wright (b. 1981) studied photography before developing an interest in cinema. After enrolling in Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he was talent spotted by the head of directing at the National Film and Television School and offered a place on its Masters in Directing Fiction course. He won the BAFTA for Best Short for his 2011 work, Until the River Runs Red.


Double bill: Glimpse & Central Airport THF

Sun 7 Oct | 4.30pm

Fri 26 Oct | 7.30pm


How do you view a refugee? Two visual artists call attention to the politics of seeing.


Southeast Asian Premiere



By Artur Żmijewski

Glimpse - Artur Żmijewski

Poland, Germany | No sound | 2017 | 14 min | PG

Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw

Glimpse is a single-channel video shot at four refugee camps in Germany and France: Berlin Tempelhof Airport, the “Jungle" in Calais, Grande Synthe camp near Dunkirk, and a makeshift site in Paris. This short is reminiscent of ethnographic films from the past that held their subjects at a distance to survey and define their Otherness. Inevitably, these films often become a gaze at abjection.

Director Artur Żmijewski alludes to these films by drawing on their stylistic traits. For Glimpse, he filmed in black-and-white with a 16mm analogue camera, did not use sound, and focused on physical attributes and living conditions. For example, he tilts the camera to inspect a man from head to toe, and zooms in on the state of his subjects’ dwellings. In this way, Żmijewski forces us to confront the way we see today’s refugees, and tests the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable.

Glimpse had its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2018) in the Ammodo Tiger Short Competition. It was first exhibited at documenta 14 (2017) in Athens.


Artur Żmijewski (b. 1966) is a Polish visual artist, photographer and filmmaker. He is known for his 1999 work Game of Tag, and for works such as Realism (2017) that have drawn significant public attention to people with mental or physical disabilities. Notably, he represented Poland at the 51st Art Biennale in Venice (2006) and was the curator of the 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art 2012. He has had solo exhibitions and group shows all over the world, including documenta 12, Manifesta 4, Kunsthalle Basel, and MoMA. In 2018, International Film Festival Rotterdam dedicated a retrospective to his works.


Singapore Premiere


Central Airport THF

By Karim Aïnouz

Central Airport THF - Karim Aïnouz

Germany, France, Brazil | In German, Arabic, Russian and English with English subtitles | 2018 | 97 min | PG13 (Some coarse language)

This film is supported by Goethe-Institut Singapore. 


Berlin Tempelhof Airport opened in 1923. Once the main aviation hub for Germany, it later became a Nazi military base, and then the supply centre for Allied sectors during the Berlin Blockade. Air traffic operations have now ceased, but it remains a place for arrivals and departures. Today its massive hangars are used as one of Germany's largest emergency shelters for asylum seekers like Syrian student Ibrahim Al Hussein and Iraqi physiotherapist Qutaiba Nafea, whose personal stories direct this documentary. Along with thousands of others, they have adapted to a life-in-waiting filled with German language lessons, medical checks, and interviews with social services.

Director Karim Aïnouz’ sensitive compositions and long takes—visual poetry—surface the beauty of the historic airport’s architecture and the humanity of its inhabitants. This presents another way of seeing that contrasts with the tendency of reducing refugees to quick statistics, especially in policy-making. But even though an elderly refugee describes the airport as “heaven,” many residents must struggle with homesickness, post-traumatic stress disorder and fear of deportation. It is the hope of attaining residency and a fresh start that sustains them.

Central Airport THF won the Amnesty International Award when it premiered at the 2018 Berlinale. It then went on to compete at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival and Cinéma du Réel.


Karim Aïnouz (b. 1966) made his debut feature film Madame Satã in 2002; it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. Since then, he has made works such as The Silver Cliff (2011), which was presented at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes Film Festival; Your Empathic City (2011), a collaboration with Olafur Eliasson; and Cathedrals of Culture (2014), which premiered at the Berlinale. His works have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, the São Paulo Biennial, and the Sharjah Biennial.


In Jackson Heights

By Frederick Wiseman

In Jackson Heights - Frederick Wiseman

Sat 27 Oct | 7.30pm

USA | In English, Spanish and Arabic with English subtitles| 2015 | 189 min | M18 (Some mature content)


Jackson Heights in Queens, New York City, is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse neighbourhoods in the United States. There are immigrants from every country in South and Central America, as well as large communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Thailand, Nepal and Tibet. Some are citizens, some have green cards, some are undocumented. Together, they speak 167 languages and represent the new wave of immigrants to the United States.

Veteran director Frederick Wiseman quietly observes the residents as they go about their daily lives at their businesses, community centres, religious institutions and street festivals. In doing so, he captures their struggle to uphold traditions from their countries of origin while adapting to American ways and values. The social and economic issues that they face in their efforts for assimilation, integration and inclusivity parallel those of their counterparts in other major cities around the world. As with all his films, Wiseman adopts a direct cinema approach to documenting life in Jackson Heights, painting a broad and complex portrait of contemporary life.

In Jackson Heights has been screened in prestigious festivals worldwide including the Venice Film Festival (2015), Toronto International Film Festival (2015), Busan International Film Festival (2015) and Copenhagen International Documentary Festival (2015). It garnered the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Non-Fiction Film (2015).


Frederick Wiseman (b. 1930) has directed over 40 documentaries since 1967 that explore the human experience in a wide variety of contemporary social institutions. His first film, Titicut Follies (1967) saw him venturing inside a Massachusetts hospital for the criminally insane. Since then, his subjects have included a ballet company in New York and National Gallery London. He received the IFDA Living Legend Award in 2009, the Golden Lion for Career Achievement in 2014 and the Academy Honorary Award in 2016.


Singapore Premiere
Motherland / Bayang Ina Mo

By Ramona S. Diaz

Painting with Light 2018 - Motherland

Sat 6 Oct, 7.30pm

Sun 7 Oct, 2pm

USA, Philippines | In Tagalog and English with English subtitles | 2017 | 94 min | M18 (Content depicting childbirth)

This programme includes a post-screening dialogue with director Ramona S. Diaz.


Motherland takes us into the heart of the busiest maternity hospital in one of the poorest and most populous countries—the Philippines. Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila is a refuge for expectant mothers surviving below the poverty line, most of whom cannot afford contraception or the $60 delivery fee. It administers as many as 100 deliveries a day and treats sick infants at highly subsidised rates.

Director Ramona Diaz employs an absorbingly intimate, vérité approach in documenting the daily routines of the hospital—nurses taming the chaos of emergency arrivals, mothers recovering in beds with double or triple occupancy, parents providing “Kangaroo Mother Care” to premature babies. Once these become familiar, the individual stories emerge. The film follows three women—Lea, Lerma and Aira—over the course of their stay, amidst many others who forge fleeting but profound relationships with other mothers, nurses and social workers. Motherland testifies to the warmth, generosity and fortitude of those who live on the margins of society, and those who sustain them.

Motherland won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Commanding Vision at the Sundance Film Festival (2017) and the Viktor Award at the Munich International Documentary Festival (2017). Brillante Mendoza is the film’s Executive Producer.


Ramona S. Diaz is best known for her compelling character-driven documentaries that have screened and won awards at Sundance Film Festival, Berlinale, Tribeca Film Festival, and many others. In 2016, she was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts Sciences.


The Seen and Unseen / Sekala Niskala

By Kamila Andini

The Seen and Unseen - Kamila Andini

Sat 6 Oct | 2pm*

Sat 20 Oct | 7.30pm

Indonesia | In Balinese and Indonesian with English subtitles | 2017 | 86 min | PG

*This screening is followed by the Special Focus public forum on death and spirituality in Southeast Asia, with director Kamila Andini as part of the film panel. Patrons who have purchased tickets to this screening are guaranteed seats at the forum.


Ten-year old Tantri is reluctant to approach her twin brother Tantra as he lies in hospital, gravely ill. Instead, she finds herself waking up nightly in surreal dream states that allow her to resume playing and talking with her brother. Tantri expresses her unspoken grief through the Balinese arts of dance, song and shadow-play, and bids farewell to her dying brother.

The Seen and Unseen references the Balinese philosophy of sekala niskala, which posits that the universe extends beyond the material realm to the supernatural. This holistic view is prevalent in many Southeast Asian cultures. Such duality is clear from the outset of the film: male-female buncing twins are “a symbol of balance” according to Tantra’s nurse, and are believed to have a profound union. Director Kamila Andini further visualises this in hauntingly beautiful sequences that alternate between day and night, and physical and spiritual worlds. Soon, it is no longer clear or important to know where one ends and the other begins.

The Seen and Unseen was part of the official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival and Busan International Film Festival in 2017. It won the Best Youth Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (2017) and the Grand Prix of the Generation Kplus International Jury for the Best Film at Berlinale (2018).


Kamila Andini (b. 1986) directed her debut film, The Mirror Never Lies, in 2011. It has been screened at more than 30 film festivals, including the Berlinale (2012), and won more than 15 awards. Her short films, Following Diana (2015) and Memoria (2016), explore the issues women face in urban Jakarta and post-conflict Timor Leste.



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