5 Singaporean Films Every True Blue Local Must Watch

With National Day around the corner, what better time than now to #supportlocal and rewatch our Singapore films that fly our flag high? Whether you’re into couching up with tv wall mounting or streaming with tv stand installations, our cinematic history is a tapestry of its own that will keep you on edge. We’ve put together 5 local films that represent slices of Singapore life worth a watch!

12 Storeys (1997)

Helmed by movie titan Eric Khoo, he is the first Singaporean to have been invited to major film festivals internationally. 12 Storeys had also been the first Singaporean film to be screened at Cannes Film Festival. The movie might be two decades old but it’s still ever so relevant today. In his film, he explores a time capsule into our red dot’s past, holding up a realistic lens of ordinary yet repressed lives of everyday Singaporeans. He weaves the narratives to create a solid critique against social forces, both literally and figuratively. Watching this film is full of heart, whether you’re young or young at heart!

15 (2003)

Set against the backdrop of youth triads, 15 is a coming-to-age film that brings to life a striking yet actual side of local life you may not be familiar with but is nevertheless still Singapore. Featuring (then) real-life gangsters, Royston Tan portrays an honest, dark and disturbing reality of 15-year old disaffected teenagers who rebel against society. An avant-garde analysis and stark portrayal of youth gangsterism, this black comedy film touched nerves upon its initial release. Think of Hokkien tunes, secret society chants, bated breaths and bloodshed so raw that it will give you the heebie-jeebies. It’s not the usual side of Singapore, but its fever pitch will sure leave you with ants in your pants. For a raw taste of Singapore’s underbelly, 15’s kinetic style has made it a cult favourite amongst local films today.

881 (2007)

Directed by Royston Tan, this musical-comedy-drama chronicles around the unique Chinese 7th month ‘getai’ culture of Singapore. The film revitalizes the Hokkien language back to life, in a city where our dialect roots are now phased out of modern city life. The musical takes on the rite of passage of two getai singers called the Papaya Sisters. Blessed with phenomenal singing voices by the Goddess of Getai, they become the hottest acts on the Getai circuit. Though they reach their peak, they end up attracting the wrong kind of attention and must fight to keep their title. Think glitzy costumes, flamboyant choreography and naive aspirations. Still a favourite among cultural films today, 881 remains timeless in its themes: culture, glam, passion and humour. Watch this if you’re in need for a just for laughs, it’s full of side-splitting laughs.

Ilo Ilo (2013)

The first Singaporean film to win a Caméra d’Or award at Cannes, this film may very well be the greatest local film to date. Anthony Chen’s feature debut Ilo Ilo tells a story of life in the heartlands in the 1990s, particularly of material wealth and how envy imperils relationships. Told with flair, this movie is a real gem of harsh realities of everyday Singaporeans who live in small families. The main character is the domestic househelp, Teresa, who finds a footing in the family, and develops a close relationship to her employer’s son. Soon after that, a mother’s jealousy and growing power of the paper chase signals a significant threat of their livelihood and relationships.

Apprentice (2016)

We’ve all been there at least once. Spending the whole film at the edge of our seat as we cautiously eat our popcorn in case a sudden burst of a serial killer makes us choke on a kernel. If your idea of a good time is a movie that thrills you or if you have a curious obsession with crime, this one promises just it. Screened to a standing ovation at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Apprentice takes on gripping examinations of contemporary fears of Singapore’s death penalty through an apprentice learning the ropes from a seasoned hangman. This movie was also selected as the Singaporean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards. In Boo Junfeng’s razor-sharp thriller, Apprentice builds an entire, gripping suspense narrative without comprising the story with broader societal messages. Catch this thought-provoking film for reconciling guilt, professional duty and personal vendetta.

Making Moments Worth Remembering

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