Thursday, December 18, 2014

Singapore International Film Festival 2014

Hey everyone! Apologies if my absence kept you guys waiting for an update! I have been really busy lately ever since I was back from Jakarta because I am planning for the new year, there are new kittens in the house, and there are so many things that I have to look out for. I guess by now most of you would have known that I don't exactly do everything all at one go. So, here's an update on one of the many things that I have been up to!

You may have seen it elsewhere but here are the details!

It's a wrap at Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) 2014! There were so many things not to be missed especially for arts and film enthusiasts, in the biggest film festival in Singapore this year.

SGIFF is an event of Singapore Media Festival that was held in conjunction with other film events like ScreenSingapore and Asian Television Forum which is more business-centric, and Asian Television Awards that recognizes quality television production.

As most of you would have known by now, this year, SGIFF celebrates its 25th anniversary; this time better than before. It has launched a limited edition 25th Anniversary book that shares about the history and growth of SGIFF - and how it has been a memorable one for talents whose names have been brought up by this initiative. Having had read them myself, I was feeling nothing else but with awe!

The grand opening of SGIFF was a hit! Lots of people who happen to be around Orchard Road were lucky to be on the same spot as movie stars like Zhangi Ziyi, famous French actress Juliette Binoche and Tong Dawei - lucky fans got autographs of them! Sometimes I wonder if getting autographs was still the in-thing. When I was a kid, I was pretty much an autograph junkie (shhhh!) - I have a notebook full of autographs from famous artists and then when I got home, I will have a hard time telling whose autographs belong to who. Now, my stash of autographs sits in a wooden box and I don't know what to do with it. I will probably let it be a time capsule!

There were two major movies screened during the opening - Unlucky Plaza by Ken Kwek, and The Crossing by John Woo.

This year, SGIFF screens 147 feature and short films from 50 countries, handpicked from more than a thousand entries received by the festival. I have no idea how do they do that - to watch a thousand over film submissions. Even as a movie buff I barely survive a marathon these days! Hats off to those who did!

SGIFF is not just about having film screenings for movie buffs to watch, but it is also wholesome for filmmakers who would like to learn more about filmmaking, leverage ideas, and create opportunities for their business in order for Asian cinema to thrive. Not only limited to filmmakers, enthusiasts may also benefit from the master classes and talks by noted industry players like the SGIFF Masterclass by John Woo and Future Leaders Mentorship Series by Ahmad Abdalla – Filmmaker of Tomorrow.

One of the highlights that I really applaud was the Southeast Asian Film Lab workshop. It is a six-day writing workshop aimed at emerging screenwriters, writer, and directors from Southeast Asia aged between 18 and 35, with a focus on stories capturing the collective experiences of the past, present and future Southeast Asia, to be developed into feature length screenplays.

Also, Silver Screen Awards 2014!

The Silver Screen Awards was first introduced in 1991 with the categories for Best Asian Feature Film and Best Singapore Short Film at the 4th Singapore International Film Festival, and Singapore became the first international film festival to have a specific Asian film competition. It was launched with the aim of creating awareness of the rich filmmaking talents throughout Asia and to pave the way for a Singapore film industry.

I am thrilled to be a part of this, to support and appreciate filmmakers who have put in their hard work in creating value out of their ideas.

Singapore's beloved Adrian Pang graced the stage with his funny antics and lively persona that lifts the spirit of the theatre that was filled with invited guests. He is just so witty! Also entertaining us that evening were melodious cover tunes by Jill-Marie Thomas. Amazing voice indeed!

The awards presented 8 categories, 4 in each segment. In Asian film categories, there were Best Film, Best Director, Best Performance, and Special Mention. In Southeast Asian film categories, there were Best Southeast Asian Short Film, Best Singapore Short Film, Best Director, and Special Mention.

It is heartening that the hard work of the winners has paid of and really hope it becomes a catalyst for other filmmakers to be as competitive in producing great films! Congratulations to all winners!

Had the chance to meet some of these filming moguls and congratulate them personally, which is a rare opportunity but it was great to be able to find out from them their latest projects and their vision for the Asian cinema.

The talented female director who won the Best Southeast Asian Short Film category - Kirsten Tan! You'd be happy (and maybe a little sad) that this movie; Dahdi (Granny) would be her last short film! She will be releasing her first feature film with Anthony Chen - who was there too. Anthony Chen is the director for the famous movie Ilo Ilo. I am definitely looking forward to see their latest project (can't reveal too much), Popeye (not that cartoon!) which won the top prize at the Torino Film Lab last month! Kudos once again!

Here's to the man who won the Best Singapore Short Film, Tan Shijie! Don't you think he has the built to be an air steward? Okay, he probably has more interest in taking care of films than air passengers. Just kidding! Anyway, his latest accolade was for his short film Not Working Today, which was about a foreign worker who decided not go to work one day as he was tired of being treated unfairly and not being paid for his work. He sure deserves this award! Especially in the recent rise of xenophobia, we need to be educated about not stereotyping every group of people.

Here's another hats off to the man who won huge that night! Here's to Chaitanya Tamhane who won The Best Film category for his feature film Court, which centres on the justice system in India. He also took home the Best Director award for his film, in which an ageing folk singer is tried for abetting the suicide of a manhole worker with an inflammatory song.

While you may have your eyes on stars like Natassja Kinski, Chen Bolin, Cheng Pei Pei who also graced the event, let's not forget the winners who may have created other stars along the way!

Then came the last day of SGIFF with its closing film Selamat Pagi, Malam; with an English working title, popularly known as In The Absence of the Sun. The movie was so relatable especially when it was just two weeks ago I went to Jakarta to immerse in the ambience and culture.

Directed by Lucky Kuswandi, In the Absence of The Sun paints tender portraits of three women navigating their way through this megacity - Jakarta. Although the three nighttime flaneurs never meet, their paths converge in an aptly named love hotel called Lone Star. In this brief intersection of lives, he highlights the unspoken tensions between tradition and modernity, which coexist uneasily in the vast city.

Second from the left of this photo is Lucky Kuswandi with his casts (myself excluded!), at the after-party of SGIFF closing. The closing party was a smash! Okay, credits to the short walk over to DB Bistro Moderne which was right across MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands!

The food were delish! I love the oyster because it tastes so fresh and it doesn't have that weird after-taste. So I ate that almost without caution. Going round the tables were satay (specially made for the event), foie gras sandwich, and I thought there were no desserts until I went to the other side of the restaurant! The macarons were popular amongst guests. I realize whenever I went to the buffet it was left with only one sad macaron and I always wonder why didn't the last person just take it all? Haha! Undeniably palatable desserts and pastries!

I hope you guys have enjoyed 2014 so far. It has been a crazy year for me and I am telling you gurl, I have nothing but to be grateful this year. Anyway, here's to the last event for the year. SGIFF, I would like to thank you guys so much for such a wonderful invitation, and congratulations for pulling up such a wonderful job! *virtual hug* I wish you guys a prosperous year ahead, and definitely looking forward to see you again next year.

I am also taking this opportunity to wish everyone out there a very happy new year 2015! May all our dreams, goals and whatever good intentions in our hearts come to reality. Here's to a wonderful, blissful and adventurous year ahead!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jakarta, 2014

Hey everyone! I am finally back from a long weekend getaway in Jakarta! I have to say December has been a crazy good month and I am really thankful for that. Ultimately grateful and it is only right to share these good times with you guys. Making time attending parties after parties in support of organizers and friends, and to be able to make a return visit to Indonesia again this year to visit relatives and new places is a bliss. It is indescribable. Somehow, I don't want December to go! Nevertheless, I am all prepared now for 2015. I am feeling really blessed because early 2014 was a rough beginning and I am hoping to end the year on a good note, and start the year one step ahead.

How's my weekend trip in Jakarta? It was crazy fun! Great is an understatement. Despite the massive traffic jam, I had a good time basking in the culture, ambience, and definitely witnessed exemplary driving etiquette despite their roads being insane. Nevertheless, it is heartening that you can sense good atmosphere ever since the investiture of the new president, Mr Joko Widodo.

I have been to Indonesia a lot of times, I love it because the food are well-flavored. It is probably a country where I would say their street food is way more delicious than what is served in most flashy restaurants. Speaking of restaurants, I will get to that later. Food there is disturbingly cheap and good, I could buy a bowl of bakso (meatball) and still have lots to spare and go for a second round.

As this was a planned yet impromptu trip, I will not furnish you guys with the boring details of me sleeping in the car while on the road, but I will share with you the places that I go to because honestly, when my relative asked me where did I want to go, I was really unsure. Jakarta and Bandung is too big to even think of a place. Spoilt for choice but here you go!

Flew via Jetstar, I definitely had a mismatched expectation. I am liking the Jetstar self-check-in in Singapore's Changi Airport Terminal 1, simply because at that time the queue was long and I don't do well with queueing. I was wandering around while the rest were queueing and I was like "Eh? Self-check-in?" and literally no one was using the self-check-in machines. So I gave it a try and "Beep!" it works! I am really applauding the self-check-in service because we saved about half hour from queuing just to check in. All you have to do is to follow the instructions given and your boarding pass will be printed, then chuck all your luggages onto the belt for the weight to be assessed before sending it off to the aircraft. That simple.

However, I was quite disappointed by the disgusting seats. Since it's meant for short-haul, it's all about spending as little time as possible docking at the airport to save cost. I saw facial oils on the front of my seat and for short-hauls, go figure how many times have they flown to-and-fro. I was just imagining how someone with major OCD would survive. Hygiene is important to most of us, so the least I expect was to have a seat that is clean if not a warm towel. LOL!

I slept throughout the flight.

I am sure most of us misses A&W, I am just not sure why it is no longer in Singapore. It's not that I hate McDonald's but we could use a variety of fast food like A&W, Taco Bell, or TCBY et cetera. I was heads over heels when I saw this! Loving their spicy chicken.

After lunching upon arrival, I headed to Manhattan Hotel, where I stayed a night before heading to Bandung - the hotel has a great view so if you are going for the view of skyline during the holidays, would like to see the nightlight and maybe fireworks if you are lucky, Manhattan Hotel is the it place to spend your night. Sometimes I dread going to Indonesia because of the haze but now, I came to conclusion that December is not exactly the worst time to go since the rain washes down the soot in the air. Loving the clear unobstructed view. For once you can see the clear blue sky!

The hotel is also located centrally along the shopping belt at Jalan Profesor Doktor Satrio (stylized as Jl. Prof. Dr. Satrio) where all the malls are walking distance. In fact, walking to the mall is the best option to avoid traffic. You will take approximately 45 minutes if you are going to drive because of the jam and search for parking. Walking there only took a third of the time. So ironic!

Although the malls are conveniently located, I find that the gym was way accesible so that's where I went before dinner. Just needed to activate some muscles after spending time throughout the flight asleep. After which I went to Tamnak Thai restaurant for welcome dinner by my Jakarta relatives - it was mouthwatering and much needed meal! Tamnak's Tom Yam soup is hard to pass! I don't really take spicy food on holidays but since it looks and smells so good, I don't mind being called double standard favoring this. At least I had an awesome meal. ;)

Spent the rest of the day packing for a road trip to Bandung.

I initially thought there was nothing much or rather, nothing new in Bandung but I was hell wrong. Bandung is actually more happening than Jakarta - despite Jakarta being the capital of Indonesia. There were lots of things to see, new places to go and food to taste. In fact, that's the reason why most holiday goers would avoid making their way to Bandung on a Friday because that's when majority of the people in Jakarta will drive down there and you'll probably get stuck in traffic jam. The drive on the highway takes about 4-hours on a non-peak period - when it's only about 150km off Jakarta. So can you imagine the time taken during peak hours?

It also helps that my relative showed me around, so I am truly grateful and thankful for that. Thank God! Locals tend to know the inside streets in Bandung and they can help you through the traffic too.

Upon reaching, the first sight-seeing I did was at this place called Dusun Bambu. It's a bamboo-concept park where most of the things there are made of bamboo and they have beautiful nests where you can dine in. The place is not as hot and humid as you think, it's on a mountain so it's quite cold except in the afternoon. I still didn't sweat much, so it's good I guess!

Personally, the highlight for me was the bamboo swing! Even though the seat was slippery and almost had me thrown off the swing, I reminisced of my childhood days when I was twelve enjoying the swing after school hours and bullying some kids for fun at the playground - bullying was quite mutual then though it was just teasing around. These days it's so hard to find a swing in Singapore! Probably easier to find people with mood swings though. Haha! Throwback memories!

I did not dine in the nest because I wanted something more adventurous so I had street food at this eatery called Kedai Lugina where it sells everything mutton. This is the best mutton place in town. When I travel, I love culinary with a native touch. Otherwise, I might as well sit home and order in right? You only live once. #yolo

I had Nasi Goreng Kambing (mutton fried rice), Sup Kambing (mutton soup) and Satay Kambing (mutton satay). I probably had your jaws dropped now. Yes, I am working on a diet now since I am back. No more meat for the next few weeks! My cholesterol level is probably off the charts. I wonder how people in Bandung can resist this tempting menu.

When I was told this is the best mutton joint, I wondered how do you define best when it is just street food. Amazingly the mutton did not have an after-taste; those ammonia smell after you eat mutton and that the cook doesn't even use butter and oil for their satay. The meat is as tender even without it. Hence, I approve this would be the best mutton joint in Cimahi!

Across Kedai Lugina I found this superb and powerful street art. Not sure if it is still called vandalism if it is well intent? Nevertheless, I find this Cimahi's slogan very universal and apt. Cimahi is a city in west Bandung where I was at. The message on that art says Saluyu Ngawangun Jati Mandiri. It is not the Mandiri bank I am talking about! Mandiri actually means indepedent in Bahasa Indonesia.

Hence, the slogan Saluyu Ngawangan Jati Mandiri simply carries a message of being harmonious, working shoulder to shoulder in building positive self-image, independence and progress.

I then headed to Trans Studio Mall and theme park. That's where my perception towards Bandung changed in a good way.

The mall is simply gorgeous. It's huge, it's well designed and decorated especially during this festive occasion. For a country that is quite notorious for its you know, militants and whatnot, the malls there are quite liberated with high end retail like Salvatore Ferragamo and Hugo Boss - catering to those from Jakarta who are in Bandung. It is definitely integrated for the community and tourists because they even have an indoor theme park.

Which is very, very convenient and practical in countries with erratic weather.

Trans Studio Studio theme park is huge although not the largest, it can still fit in adrenaline pumping and wet rides like the freefall and the luge. On sunny days, you will be able to ride on the roller coaster as major part of the coaster track is outdoors. It was unfortunate that it was raining when I was there because I can't get my butt on that roller coaster! I guess it happened for a good reason. I had a load of mutton before that. I don't want accidental spew up while on it. Haha!

Just annoyed that the Dunlop ride did not allow me to ride the car on my own. It was so retarded because I wanted to drive the car on my own and not be a passenger of a bumper car-like ride and I was denied of it being reason the ride was meant for two. I was quite pissed because the people who went before me got to drive it on their own just because they are so-called alone. What a shame. It's not even a thrilling ride to begin with. Worse, the queue was not even long for me to wait for another car!

If anyone must know my ultimate motive visiting Bandung, it was actually this. I was there to visit my uncle's new mosque project which he planned. The mosque is very, very strategic and sublime. It is located right across Trans Studio Mall, so if you are lack of cash after shopping, it's probably time to kneel and pray for divine intervention. If not, just be there to be grateful for all the blessings you got! Loving the mosque you built uncle!

After the tour I had dinner at Alas Daun with my relatives and all. For a considerably classy Sundanese restaurant, I was hating the slippery and dirty floor - especially since it was raining. Nevertheless the food was good, freshly cooked, and served scorching hot

The following morning before heading back to Jakarta I dropped by Prima Rasa, where they sell pastries and cookies. I love Indonesian pastries and cookies because of their authentic flavor. It was quite crowded. Due to the crowd and bulk purchases by the locals, most pastries are indeed freshly baked. Most times patrons would wait for their wanted delicacies to be baked. Waiting time is not that long, say about half hour? While waiting you can always try the samples on the racks and try out the street food outside the premises.

Although Prima Rasa has a lot of variety, it still does not have the things that I want. So I went to Tebet in Jakarta before heading back to Manhattan Hotel for my crackers to be brought home! My mum didn't know I bought this much until we were packing. She thought I wanted to open a business selling chips. The chips are too delicious to not buy!

Bought so much it had to be in a luggage on its own. Okay not really, the rest were in another hand carry. My chips are such princesses and fragile. Need to be handled with care and not tossed around like a piece of meat!

Remaining days in Jakarta were spent exploring the malls nearby. I love Lotte Shopping Avenue! It is walking distance away from Manhattan Hotel, although it may be tiring to some, it saves much more time than driving. Their sale was splendid. Up to seventy percent discount on most items at Lotte departmental store was not a joke. Literally. You know how on most sales you don't get the color you want, or the size you want, or a new set of items. Here, you will not feel cheated!

I spent an amount and was rewarded with vouchers and was really grateful for this! Not sure about the mall ratings there but I am appreciating the fact that I was able to walk in groups without colliding with another stranger like how you experienced in a crowded mall. Especially when this mall is really peaceful, it brings retail therapy to a whole new therapeutical level. Even the customer service was good. Despite being a peaceful mall, it does not mean it is lack of entertainment and buzz. The atrium was filled with art galleries and performances at night.

I then had supper for farewell at Dim Sum Inc, because it was late and it is one of the many places that offers tasty dim sum for 24 hours. On top of that it has a fast WiFi for patron access - had to update something quickly before we started eating!

The dim sum was good. I am not a fan of eating chicken feet but the blackpepper sauce is too irresistable to give it a miss. I was just hoping the feet doesn't crawl while I was at it. The curry pau was tasteful too. A must try if you are going. You will definitely love the ambience because it has this hipster/bar kind of setting serving Asian food.

Sometimes, supper does not do so I had to order room service! Just to satisfy my cravings and hunger pangs because I do not want to miss any food when I am back. I need a routine already! The room service was quite fast. Perhaps because it was after-hours and they seem so free. They probably hate me for making such late night orders. At least that had me slept well!

While this trip is more about spending time tantalizing taste buds with different kinds of food and setting eyes on the greenery, I did not have the time to eat Indonesian favorite traditional Mi Bakso (meatball noodle). I finally had the chance to #nomnomnom on it at Soekarno Hatta airport.

I hope you guys are having as much fun during this holiday season! See you again!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Singapore International Film Festival 2014 - 25th Anniversary Book Launch

Hey guys! Most of you would have heard by now that the celebrated Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is coming soon this week. I am really eager about it because it has been a while since I was a part of this wonderful event! What's more, SGIFF is celebrating its Jubilee after 25 years since its founding.

It is amazing to be a part of SGIFF because it is one of the most prestigious film festivals in Singapore and have had brought up names of film players like directors and producers alike. As such, to be invited for SGIFF is an honour that I will not forget!

Last week I managed to steal some time to grace the launch of SGIFF latest book to commemorate its 25th anniversary. I had a busy weekend so this meant something for me.

SGIFF has a rich history and I feel that even a book could not document everything about its past. However, it is in this one book that all the recollection and histories were documented, enough to know what you need to know from its birth, growth, and the hurdle to keep it through - due to regulations and whatnot back then.

The first edition of the Singapore International Film Festival was held in 1987. It was the first major ‘film’ showcase to take place in Singapore and it was truly independent, created by a small group of passionate people who wanted to expand the horizons of cinema for local audiences.

To see SGIFF once more is not only nostalgic but inspiring to see how the hard work of the SGIFF pioneers have paid off into sustaining and encouraging the appreciation of films in Singapore. Appreciation not only for local films, but overseas ones like from Korea and France too.

Hence, the birth of 25: Histories and Memories of the Singapore International Film Festival.

As the 25th edition of the festival looms, this publication takes a clear look back – through articles, interviews and images – on the festival’s past, gathering together histories and memories, stories and insights into how the festival came to be, it’s growth, the spaces and places it inhabited, the struggles that were part of its existence, and the profound impact it had on both cinema-going and film-making in Singapore.

This year, film fanatics can finally dust off their tortoiseshell glasses, because the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) returns this month after a two-year hiatus. And it’s gonna be a unique – almost 150 feature and short films from 50 countries all over the world will be shown, with many making their Asian and Singaporean premieres at the festival.

See you there!