An odyssey to the history of Singaporean cinema is a thrilling ride. The city-state has a rich and profound history. Similar to how even Singapore casino games took some cultural inspiration from their history, it is also reflected in their cinematic aesthetic.
From the classics to the contemporary, Singaporean cinema has a cultural identity as diverse as nature but is united as a single-celled entity.
Singapore has a rich culture that was influenced by the neighboring straits times cultures. With the diaspora of Chinese, Malay, and Hindu people in the maritime city, the city became a cultural melting pot and it is represented in every Singaporean film.
We compiled the top 10 best cinematic gems of Singapore, the list is as follows:
A Yellow Bird
A Yellow Bird is a 2016 independent drama film by filmmaker K. Rajagopal. The movie depicts a Singaporean-Indian man named Siva who after being released in prison for smuggling, had a resolve to seek redemption to his mother but eventually rejected. He then began a journey to seek his ex-wife and daughter with his prostitute companion.
The film presented the rare portrait of Indian culture in Singapore, the movie also utilized a dense Tamil language. The film landed a nomination for the Cannes Critic Grand Prize.
Royston Tan created this black comedy-drama from his acclaimed short film of the same name. The full-length film features the real-life story of actual juvenile gangsters in the stark suburbs of Singapore.
The film depicts the life of triad members, with chants in Hokkien, real gang names, and secret societies. The film also depicts a homoerotic relationship between the two characters and earned an R-rating for its male full-frontal nudity.
Perth: The Geylang Massacre is a neo-noir film by Ong Lay Jinn. It is a dark and disturbing tale of a security guard who becomes a taxi driver who becomes disillusioned by the empty life in Singapore and wishes to move to Perth, Australia.
He started to work as a driver for an escort service in Geylang and as the events unfold, the story becomes much more violent. The film has a haunting line when the character says he’s just a ‘simple man’.
Pontianak is a classic piece from pre-independent Singapore. It is a supernatural story that depicts the folk tale of Pontianak, a legendary female monster who eats children. The film inspired many subsequent sequels as well as remakes.
The film depicts the unsung tale of the life of the young prisoners who are subjected to the death penalty. The movie also presented a portrait of the death penalty from an executioner’s point of view.
The film received critical acclaim by the critics and received a standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival. The film also criticized the judiciary system in Singapore and touches on profound humanity in every aspect.
A Land Imagined
A Land Imagined is a neo-noir film that tells the story of a detective that investigates the disappearance of a Chinese migrant worker. As he investigates another missing person, he finally finds the truth behind these disappearances.
It is a classic 1962 film that is known to be a part of the Golden Era of Singaporean films. The movie depicts the intersperse of comedy and tragedy of a love story of a lowly musician and a lofty woman.
The film is a mellow depiction of a young man’s life who is turned upside-down when exposed to several revelations from his life that quickly changed his perspective. The director carefully employs soulful aesthetic shots that depict the portrait of masculinity amidst tragedy and disillusionment.
To Singapore, With Love
The movie depicts interviews from escapees of the Operation Coldstore of the joint force of governments of Malay, Singapore, and Britain which aimed to purge the country of alleged Communists. The film portrays the real-life horrors that these people who are unfairly detained and denied trial experienced from harsh conditions to constant death threats.
Pendekar Bujang Lapok
The comedic story of Pendekar Bujang Lapok translated as The Three Bachelor Warriors is very heartwarming. The movie has a fantastic portrayal of well-written characters that exudes an inevitable charm that film-goers will surely remember.
Considered as a classic piece, according to The Strait Times it is considered the best Singaporean film of all time. The movie transcends beyond mythmaking and movie production as it touches a lot of generations.