SIFF readies 200-film lineup


SINGAPORE -- Despite facing a significant cut in its annual budget, the Singapore International Film Festival that kicks off Friday will welcome more than 200 films from 40 countries.

Now in its 21st year, SIFF saw its budget drop from S$850,000 ($611,372) in 2007 to S$400,000 this year.

The program opens with a Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective and a collection of human rights shorts, while the main 10-day festival will open a week later on April 4 with Wayne Wang's "The Princess of Nebraska," a story of a pregnant Chinese girl living in the U.S. Other films include the critically acclaimed Golden Bear winner "Tuya's Marriage," by director Wang Quan'An, along with "I'm Not There," Todd Haynes' unorthodox biopic in which Bob Dylan is played by a number of actors.

The festival also includes an Australian Focus segment, a tribute to the late Indonesian film director Sjuman Djaya (1934-85) and a retrospective of 55 years of Vietnam cinema, ranging from such classics as "Little Girl of Hanoi" and "Mrs. Tu Hai" to the recent "The Life" by Dao Duy Phuc, in competition along with another 11 films for the festival's Screen Awards for best Asian feature.

For the first time, the SIFF is introducing a Singapore Panorama segment that will feature 14 new homegrown feature-length and short films. They include "The Olive Depression" by Joshua Lim, which captures the conflicting emotions faced by the film's protagonists before their conscription into mandatory military service, and Kan Lume's "Dreams From the Third World," about an idealistic filmmaker trying to convince a prostitute to star in his porn film.

Festival manager Yuni Hadi said she hopes that whatever preconceptions people may have about a "Singapore film," they should be left at the door "and instead be challenged, twisted, questioned and discussed."

"The panorama is a wide overview of what has been produced in the last year from our filmmakers. This section allows us to appreciate the variety of topics explored," she said.