SGIFF supports Film Fund recipients to help capture stories unique to Southeast Asia

Highlighting their efforts to develop Southeast Asian cinema and create a space for its narratives and content, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) revealed its list of eight selected regional documentaries and short films receiving grants from the SGIFF Film Fund.

Films from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore were chosen in recognition for their potential to contribute to the development of Southeast Asian content through their distinctive narratives and perspectives.

The SGIFF Film Fund comprises the Tan Ean Kiam Foundation-SGIFF Southeast Asian Documentary Grant (SEA-DOC) and SGIFF Southeast Asian Short Film Grant (SEA-SHORTS) that aim to champion Southeast Asian works, supporting independent cinema and serve as a Kickstarter to propel independent filmmakers forward. 

Top Left - Bottom Right: Ukrit Sa-nguanhai (Thailand), Joanne Cesario (Philippines), Nong Nhat Quang (Vietnam), and Tonny Trimarsanto (Indonesia)
(from left) Ukrit Sa-nguanhai (Thailand), Joanne Cesario (Philippines), Nong Nhat Quang (Vietnam), and Tonny Trimarsanto (Indonesia). Photo courtesy: SGIFF

The Tan Ean Kiam Foundation-SGIFF Southeast Asian Documentary Grant (SEA-DOC) grants four mid-length or feature documentaries in various stages of production and post-production annually. This year, the selection committee has chosen three production projects that will each receive SGD 30,000 in cash. 

One post-production project will also receive a grant of SGD 20,000. With the SEA-DOC grant, the Tan Ean Kiam Foundation said it hopes to support Southeast Asian documentary filmmakers to continue capturing stories that are unique to the region.

“Documentary filmmaking unveils truths, bridges generations, and shapes our collective consciousness. With this grant, we hope to empower filmmakers to craft stories that echo the pulse of society, igniting conversations that will transform and inspire change.” said Tan Keng Leck, Vice Chairman of the Tan Ean Kiam Foundation.

Stories that have been selected for this edition of the SEA-DOC grant include documentaries on anti-communist propaganda, the preservation of precious untold histories, a usual family reunion with an unusual plot twist, and the sensitivities of discrimination in a conservative society; this year’s winners are a reflection of the depth and diversity of talent here in Southeast Asia, an official statement read.

The selection committee received almost 68 submissions and commended the four projects for handling their stories with creativity and craft. 

Grant winners

The Itinerant by Ukrit Sa-nguanhai (Thailand): 1966, in the middle of a long trip for an anti-communist itinerant film screening in rural Thailand. The itinerant film troupe finds a mutilated dead body in the Mekong River that resembles a dead body found in the present day but has gone missing.

The selection committee cited, “During the Cold War, USIS propaganda films were screened in northeastern Thailand as an attempt to influence and control the consciousness of rural villagers by blurring the lines between fiction and reality. The Itinerant revisits these past realities through fictionalised recreations, interviews, and storytelling, bringing to light forgotten histories that were once thought to be mere fiction. Ukrit Sa-nguanhai’s experimental methods and clear documentary style inspire confidence that the film’s research will be compelling and textured.”

Invisible Labour by Joanne Cesario (Philippines): The return of the Marcos family to the presidential palace amid the economic crisis, the documentary looks at the importance of preserving the history of massive labour struggles that fought for democratic rights and led to the downfall of Martial Law and its continuing relevance to the present struggle of Filipino workers.

The selection committee cited, “Empowering and complexly layered, Invisible Labor reflects on the Philippines’ recent and politically unstable past, reclaiming a version of history that is actively being erased. The titular ‘Labour’ refers to that Carlito Piedad, a janitor whose singular efforts led to the preservation of an audiovisual collection of people’s resistance during the period of Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos. Joanne Cesario keenly positions film as a collective tool and a tool for collectivity by drawing attention to the potential and necessity of archiving as resistance.”  

Baby Jackfruit Baby Guava by Nong Nhat Quang (Vietnam): When an unplanned baby enters the lives of a conservative mother, mentally ill daughter, and detached gay son, the dysfunctional trio travels back in time through their diaries to mend ruptured bonds, rewrite memories, and prepare for a new cycle of motherhood. A creative documentary exploring the cycle of motherhood, plotted by the present with stories and sounds of the past.

The selection committee cited, “Baby Jackfruit Baby Guava commands an intimate glimpse into familial dysfunction. Nong Nhat Quang delves deep within the loving yet complicated parent-child relationships infused with patriarchal customs by reflecting on generational trauma and queer discrimination. Nong definitively represents a new wave of young Vietnamese filmmakers who are unafraid of introspection. Courageously, he peers into his personal history, bringing a new hope of solidifying a stronger future, reclaiming the narrative for himself and his family.”

Under the Moonlight by Tonny Trimarsanto (Indonesia): Nur (40 years old) is a transgender who works as a cook in an Islamic School Al Fatah in Kota Gede, Yogyakarta. This school is a bit unique as all the students are Transgenders.

The selection committee cited, “Through its sensitive and observational style, Under the Moonlight addresses a politically urgent topic – the discrimination suffered by the LGBTQ+ community under religious conservatism in Indonesia. Focusing on an Islamic school in Yogyakarta, where every student is transgender, the search for true acceptance begins. Under the Moonlight is exemplary in its empathetic perspective. Tonny Trimarsanto demonstrates a considered and respectful approach to the subjects, earning their trust and allowing all audiences to connect to their individual stories and lives.”

Top Left - Bottom Right: Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan (Philippines), Chonchanok Thanatteepwong (Thailand), Giselle Lin (Singapore), Taufiqurrahman Kifu (Indonesia).
(from left) Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan (Philippines), Chonchanok Thanatteepwong (Thailand), Giselle Lin (Singapore), Taufiqurrahman Kifu (Indonesia). Photo courtesy: SGIFF


SGIFF Southeast Asian Short Film Grant (SEA-SHORTS)

Supported by C47 Investment and White Light Post, the SGIFF Southeast Asian Short Film Grant (SEA-SHORTS) is awarded to four short films this year. Each recipient will receive a cash grant of SGD 4,000 from C47 Investment, and post-production support worth SGD 4,000 from White Light Post.

The selection committee received almost 265 entries. Selecting stories ranging from an enigmatic scene that unfolds deep within a lush tropical jungle, to a gripping parasitic odyssey, to a tender story of growing pains and finally an unexpected meeting that threads myth with new realities, these stories all aim to enthral and captivate as a collection of diverse and intriguing films from Southeast Asia.

This year, the SEA-SHORTS grants are awarded to:

Vox Humana by Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan (Philippines): In the middle of a tropical jungle, a dreary sight unfolds: in a state of limbo and uncertainty tend to their gear, amuse themselves with twigs, and engage in a surreal exchange of animal sounds towards each other – lost in translation as they crawl and claw at each other.

The selection committee cited, “The emotional weight of Indigenous presence on the Philippine Islands is meticulously composed in Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan’s latest imagination, where visual styles rarely used in framing Indigenous bodies are employed as an expression of resistance. Complex themes of modernity, authority, and ecological collapse, lodged within the story dynamics of a jaded zoologist and a Feral Man accused of murders, unravels patiently in the hands of an ingenious filmmaker brimming with compassion.”

Termite Life by Chonchanok Thanatteepwong (Thailand): An island woman comes to a town, full of mayflies to meet old friends in the rainy season, starting to cross between the dream and the reality.

The selection committee cited, “By invoking the corporeal horrors of a mayfly’s mutation into its termite form, Chonchanok Thanatteepwong dreams up a dreadful scenario where an island woman experiences spiritual and physical intrusions during a visit to the city. Termite Life's sensual yet grotesque bodily detail lingers across metaphysical planes of consciousness to arouse an overwhelming atmosphere of mystique and dissonance. The promise of an assured sensorial treatment and its allegorical provocations of a parasitic urban world makes Chonchanok’s latest project a palpable prospect to behold.”

Children's Day by Giselle Lin (Singapore): With Children's Day fast approaching, eight-year-old Xuan contemplates what to wear on that day, all the while navigating her place in school and at home.

The selection committee cited, “The simpler the idea, the greater the directorial precision and intuition necessary for the right execution. With sincerity, Children’s Day provides a window for international audiences to peek into the vulnerability of a young girl navigating the wonders and adversities of growing up. Giselle Lin’s tender and personal story will inspire other short film directors, reassuring them that filmmaking does not always rest on creating big ideas. Instead, stories can be told by observing and meditating on the simplest things that surround us.”

The Storytellers by Taufiqurrahman Kifu (Indonesia): In the afternoon, four young people accidentally meet in the red zone, a forbidden area that once eliminated thousands of people. There, they each wanted to find something. When evening came, they were met with something else.

The selection committee cited, “Taufiqurrahman Kifu subverts history by threading a traditional myth with new realities. He presents specific local knowledge against subjective interpretation, creating a new look at the past and achieving a newly defined status quo. Through a mix of poetic fiction, 3D animation, documentary sequences, and hybrid media, Kifu searches, alongside the protagonists of the film, for something buried within History. The Storytellers give the different narrative lives, vertical, horizontal, transverse – balance; casting a spell over all audiences alike.”