Singapore. Iran and Thailand stole the spotlight during the Silver Screen Awards at the Marina Bay Sands Grand Theater in Singapore on Saturday (02/12).
The awards, which consisted of two categories, were the penultimate event of the 28th annual Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF).
"Disappearance," a debut feature by Iranian director Ali Asgari about two young lovers facing a series of terrors in one night, won the award for best film in the Asian Feature Film Competition. The female lead, Sadaf Asgari, took home the Best Performance Award.
The jury praised the film for the simplicity and truthfulness of its story, which nevertheless contains a complexity of cultural and human relationships.
"The story is really important to me, because it is based on a true story that happened to my best friend eight years ago," said screenwriter Farnoosh Samadi, who accepted the two awards on behalf of the director and the actress.
The film had an additional screening at the National Museum of Singapore on Sunday, in recognition of it winning the top award.
Thai filmmakers Anucha Boonyawatana and Sorayos Prapapan meanwhile clinched the best director awards. Boonyawatana's film "Malila: The Farewell Flower" won the feature section, while Prapapan won the short film competition for "Death of the Sound Man."
Prapapan's film also won the Youth Jury Prize.
Another Thai filmmaker, Ratchapoom Boonbunchachoke, won an award for the most promising project in the SGIFF's Southeast Asian Film Lab with his project, "A Useful Ghost." The film lab is a story development workshop for budding filmmakers embarking on their first feature-length films.
There were also special rewards for veteran industry players, such as Indonesian filmmaker Garin Nugroho, who received an honorary award. His films include "Opera Jawa" ("Requiem From Java") and "Soegija."
The award, which is the festival's highest honor, was first given to the father of modern Korean cinema, Im Kwon-taek in 2014, then to Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf in 2015 and to Hong Kong director Fruit Chan last year.
In addition, prolific Japanese actor Koji Yakusho received the Cinema Legend Award. He is best known for his roles in "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Babel" and the 1996 Japanese film "Shall We Dance," which was adapted by Hollywood in 2004.
Yakusho said he never expected to receive such an award from Singapore.
"From now on, I will continue to do work that is deserving of this award. This will now be my motivation and I want to come back to the Singapore International Film Festival with my own film next time," he said.
Georgian filmmaker Ana Urushadze, whose feature film "Scary Mother" participated in the Asian Feature Film Competition and which has been entered in next year's Academy Awards, received the inaugural Inspiring Woman in Film Award, presented by jeweler Swarovski.
There were several high-profile names among this year's judges, including "Elizabeth" director Shekhar Kapur, who led the jury in the Asian Feature Film Competition. He was joined by Iranian-American director and screenwriter Ana Lily Amirpour and Hong Kong-Australian filmmaker Clara Law.
Kenji Ishizaka led the jury in the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition. He is best known as programming director of the Asian Future section at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Joining him were Singaporean filmmaker K. Rajagopal and Indonesian actress Marsha Timothy.
The festival committee also paid tribute to its late personalities, Lesley Ho, who was festival co-director and steering committee chairman, and Kim Ji-Seok, who was a member of the SGIFF International Advisory Board between 2014 and 2017.
On Sunday, the SGIFF also announced that Luca Guadagnino's "Call Me by Your Name" won the Audience Choice Award as most favorite film screened during the festival. The coming-of-age queer drama was the first to have both screenings sold out during the festival.
That concluded this year's SGIFF, which started on Nov. 23.
Here is the full list of the winners:
Asian Feature Film Competition Winners
Best Film: "Disappearance" by Ali Asgari
Best Director: Anucha Boonyawatana for "Malila: The Farewell Flower"
Best Performance: Sadaf Asgari for "Disappearance"
Special Mention: "Scaffolding" by Matan Yair
Southeast Asian Short Film Competition Winners
Best Southeast Asian Short Film: "Jodilerks Dela Cruz, Employee of the Month" by Carlo Fransisco Manatad
Best Singapore Short Film: "Between Us Two" by Tan Wei Keong
Special Mention: "The Malediction" by Makbul Mubarak
Best Director: Sorayos Prapapan for "Death of the Sound Man"
Youth Jury Prize: "Death of the Sound Man" by Sorayos Prapapan
Honorary Award: Garin Nugroho
Cinema Legend Award: Koji Yakusho
Inspiring Woman in Film Award: Ana Urushadze
Most Promising Project of the Southeast Asian Film Lab: "A Useful Ghost" by Ratchapoom Boonbunchachoke
Young Critic Award: Joshua Ng Jun Hao of Nanyang Technological University.