Spotlight on diverse cultures at movie screening

Aziz Idris

Moviegoers flocked to the Mahakarya Institute of the Arts Asia for the debut of Ilo Ilo as part of Singapore Film Appreciation Day on December 22.

Singapore High Commissioner-designate to Brunei Darussalam Heng Aik Yeow, senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Council of Women of Brunei Darussalam and members of the Diplomatic Corps were present.

Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at the Singapore High Commission in Brunei Darussalam Raymond Chow said, “We hope that films like Ilo Ilo can provide Bruneians with a window into the texture and rhythm of daily life in Singapore, and promote cultural exchanges between our countries. We would like to thank the Mahakarya Institute for this opportunity to showcase a little slice of Singapore.”

Ilo Ilo made waves in the global film arena when it premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors’ Fortnight and was awarded Camera d’Or award becoming the first Singaporean feature film to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Ilo Ilo was also selected as the Singaporean entry to the Best Foreign Language film at the 86th Academy Award.

ABOVE & BELOW: Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at the Singapore High Commission in Brunei Darussalam Raymond Chow welcomes guests; and Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Brunei Darussalam Homeira Rigi Zirouki in a group photo during the screening. PHOTOS: AZIZ IDRIS & BFB

The movie, directed by Anthony Chen featured an international cast including Singaporean actor Chen Tianwen, Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann, Filipino actress Angeli Bayani and debut child actor Koh Jia Ler.

The award-winning feature hits close to home to many, centering on life with domestic helpers and their relationship with the children they are hired to care for. The film is a close representation to middle class families in Singapore as they struggle through difficult times.

Brunei Film Blitz (BFB) Content Director Dr Alex Fischer said, “The entertainment factor of a film is important but so is representing national struggles and hardships. When characters grapple with difficult issues in a relatable way it is easier to sympathise and appreciate the culture.”

Brunei Film Blitz also screened Villa Dwellers, an Iranian movie directed by female director Monir Gheidi.

The family drama explores the themes during the Iran-Iraq war where families stayed at the villas near the frontline to get a chance to visit their loved ones.

Set in 1986, the film tells the story of the patience of Iranian women in managing a challenging situation. This screening goes in symphony of Iranian ladies for respecting the COVID-19 frontliners.

Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Brunei Darussalam Homeira Rigi Zirouki relayed the message by Vice President for Women and Family Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran Dr Masumeh Ebtekar about the important roles of Iranian women in the development of Iran in different fields to the audience. A variety of Iranian desserts were also served.

Meanwhile, four Indian films that took the audience beyond Bollywood, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Hawaa Hawaai, Mary Kom and Wazir were also screened during the Brunei Film Blitz. Each film shared a unique aspect of the diverse and vastly layered Indian screen identity.

High Commissioner of India to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar said Bollywood movies represent India as a nation.

Films such as Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Mary Kom reflect upon India’s achievements on the international sports stage while Hawaa Hawaai embodies the heartfelt passion for life and through the struggles of boys limited by their social situation.

Wazir is perhaps most anticipated for its star, Amitabh Bachan, a living cinema legend. Interestingly, this film took almost 20 years to make and was highly anticipated among the BFB filmgoers.

Brunei Film Blitz encouraged the sharing of cultures through arts to expose local filmmakers to different stories, perspectives and outlook to find their voice in their films.

A jury panel comprising Dean of Mahakarya Institute of the Arts Asia Dr Alex Fischer – and two world renowned filmmakers: Film producer Sheila Timothy and Cinematographer Rain Yamson reviewed the entries. The winners of the Brunei Film Blitz Competitive Categories will be awarded on December 26.