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Celebrating The Bizarre: Perspective Film Festival 2021

The first and longest-running student-led film festival in Singapore, Perspectives Film Festival (PFF) is open to the public from 21 to 31 October 2021. Organised by NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, PFF celebrates its 14th year with all that is bizarre — in the best way possible. From the dreamy, to the eccentric, the gory, and even the psychedelic… there is perhaps no better phrase to encapsulate this year’s exciting lineup of films, than the festival’s own cheeky but apt theme:

What The?!

Some highlights you can look forward to: The Singapore premiere of Annette, an award-winning musical psychodrama at Cannes Film Festival 2021. The Asian premiere of sci-fi romantic comedy Strawberry Mansion, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Panel discussions with Kim Longinotto (director of Shooting the Mafia), and Jane Schoenbrun (director of We’re All Going To The World’s Fair). Adopting a hybrid format of virtual screening and in-person viewing at the Projector, this cinematic journey will take us from Mexico to Italy to distant planets, from slow cinema to animated film, exploring family, drug wars, and the Internet.

HerCampus sat down with Festival Directors of PFF21 , Amira Yunos and Erwin Lim, to talk about the thought processes and production efforts behind the much-anticipated film festival.

Film lineup poster for Perspectives Film Festival
Photo by Sophenia Siew

Interview with Festival Directors Amira and Erwin 

HCNTU: First of all, why the theme “What The__?!”?

Erwin: It’s kind of a response to what these two years have been like since… well, covid. Also, our past festivals haven’t really had a focus on “shocking” people — leaving them puzzled or bewildered — so we decided to spice things up this year by doing something we’ve never done before.

Amira: It’s not just about the plot of the films, but also their “weird” art form and execution, and the kind of feelings they leave us with. And the best expression for those feelings is “WTF”.  Perspectives has always been about exploring boundaries and breakthroughs in cinema, and this theme allows us to further traverse tensions — be it political or societal — and open up new conversations.

HCNTU: How were the films curated?

Amira: We programmed the films to showcase different expressions and points of view, and create a diverse and inclusive range for people to watch. “WTF” is ultimately a subjective feeling, and what’s shocking to one person might sit differently with another. We curated films that made us go “WTF”, but we also want the audience to decide for themselves — “Is this truly a ‘WTF’ experience for me?”

Erwin: In addition to fitting the theme, the films we chose also deal with social issues that we feel are applicable to Singapore. For example, although Shooting the Mafia is an Italian film, it tackles problems like press freedom, which exists here too. So even if these films are bizarre and fantastical, they still raise awareness of very real concerns. We also try to programme newer films. 

HCNTU: What were the challenges of organising this festival?

Erwin: One big challenge was actually managing our expectations. Each member of our team has ideas of what they want to do, but given the current restrictions, we sometimes have to keep their expectations in check and offer alternatives to some of the proposals. 

HCNTU: Why should people watch alternative cinema?

Amira: There is novelty in alternative films which I think we all want. I also appreciate the unconventional ways of shooting that demonstrate the craft of the directors. For example, Tsai Ming-liang, the director of The River insisted on using the form of slow cinema, even though the mainstream fast cinema is better selling. So he chose to go against that, there is a message in such a choice, and I really respect him for it. 

HCNTU: What advice would you give someone who’s trying out alternative cinema for the first time?

Erwin: Keep an open mind, and try to step out of your comfort zone — find something that you feel you might not like, and just give it a shot. You never know if it actually suits your taste. And if it does, you can look up the director’s filmography and start exploring more. Alternative films aren’t as intimidating as you think! And here in Perspectives, we provide a space for people to access them.

HCNTU: If you could only use one word to describe PFF this year, what word would it be?

Amira: “Shook”! We hope these films leave you shook.

Erwin: “Unique”. For ourselves, too, the hybrid format this time has been a unique production experience.

HCNTU: What are your personal favourites of this year?

Erwin: One film I was looking forward to, but unfortunately can’t be screened, is The Prophet and the Space Aliens, an Israeli documentary about cult leader, the “last prophet” Raël. Due to IMDA restrictions, we could only screen a cut version, so we decided to not screen it because we wanted to ensure the integrity of the film. Besides that, I really like We’re All Going To The World’s Fair. It’s very relevant to our generation who grew up with the Internet — think Black Mirror on steroids — it’s about children navigating the Internet, learning to interact with people online, and trying to distinguish the virtual world from reality. And because we as the audience are watching this film virtually, it’s a pretty “meta” experience.

Amira: Belladonna of Sadness. It’s a Japanese animated art film — our only animation film this year — and I’m less familiar with this genre so I’m excited about the visuals as well as the music. I’m also curious to see how this film portrays the female experience and unpacks issues such as rape; it’s uncomfortable but it challenges my perceptions.

Festival Director Amira’s personal favourite: Belladonna of Sadness

Watching films from PFF 2021

You can watch the films on The Projector Plus, a streaming platform provided by local theatre The Projector. (Sadly, tickets to the physical screening of Annette have been sold out at the time of this article.) If you’re keen to watch more than one film (which is likely the case), promotional bundles are available for you to purchase three tickets at a lower price:

  • Big Yikes Bundle: Arguably the most “WTF” ones from the lineup, these 3 mind-boggling films take their narratives to the extreme and will definitely leave you feeling a little — no, a LOT — of something.
  • Girls’ Night Bundle: We all love sleepovers with girlfriends that end up with nobody sleeping at all, and these 3 movies are perfect for those nights. They feature female filmmakers and/or female protagonists, adding a little more power to your girls’ night in.
  • Vibe Check Bundle: If you’re more of a visual creature or a fan of “aesthetics”, this is the bundle for you. These films will surely enrapture you with their breathtaking cinematography and magical storytelling; definitely passed the vibe check.

Films are available online until 31 October 2021. For more information about Perspectives Film Festival 2021, visit their website.

Ruijia Huang

Nanyang Tech '23

A Psychology & Linguistics undergraduate who is a little obsessed with lifting and Chinese food.
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