The worlds of moviemaking and watchmaking come together to celebrate craftsmanship and originality.

From now until Dec 4, movie fans will be treated to 161 feature and short films from 52 countries at the 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF). Once again, IWC Schaffhausen is taking the starring role of official festival time partner.

SGIFF executive director Yuni Hadi says of the partnership: “[The festival] nurtures and champions the art and innovation of filmmaking, and we cannot do this on our own. A successful partnership happens when two parties with similar goals come together. In this case, with IWC, the belief is in supporting film talent and the importance of craftsmanship and originality.”

Matthieu Dupont, managing director, IWC South East Asia, concurs with Yuni. “This is the second year of our partnership with this well-established film event and it fully demonstrates IWC’s ongoing commitment to the world of filmmaking and the region,” he says.

On Nov 26, IWC will host the inaugural For the Love of Cinema benefit gala dinner, at which Vietnamese-born French filmmaker Trãn Anh Hung will be presented the inaugural IWC Filmmaker Award.

This reinforces the maison’s commitment to and support for the industry. It has been involved in other international film festivals in New York, Beijing, Dubai, Zurich and London.

In an exclusive interview with Options, Dupont elaborates on IWC’s partnership with film.

IWC has been involved in numerous film festivals. Can you tell us how the worlds of watchmaking and film connect?
Filmmaking and fine watchmaking share parallels: Both have long traditions and draw upon the pioneering spirit. Most importantly, the industries leverage talent and expertise in the ultimate bid to create memorable and meaningful masterpieces. At IWC, the theme of storytelling is especially strong and important. This is evidenced by the careful and thoughtful segregation of its six watch families. Each watch family tells a different story, evoking different emotions [that make] lasting memories. It is the same for filmmaking, where stories are conveyed through movies, arousing distinct emotions in each person.

Tell us more about the IWC Filmmaker Award.
The IWC Filmmaker Award was established several years ago to promote upcoming filmmakers as well as the vision of storytellers of all genres, whose work clearly demonstrates they have gone beyond just making movies. We honour those who have given attention to exquisite detail, and use unusual and signature techniques to manipulate the medium, thus creating an unforgettable sensory experience for the audience.

The IWC award is part of our ongoing commitment to the film festivals we support. This is the first time we’re presenting it in Southeast Asia. We are especially proud of this initiative as the region has abundant talent and culture, and by honouring the icons of tomorrow, we are also creating a legacy that we hope will serve to inspire future filmmakers.

How and why was Trãn selected for the award?
A list of candidates was recommended to IWC by SGIFF executive director Yuni Hadi and her team. Considering the acco lades and achievements Trãn has [ garnered] over the years, he was the unanimous choice of IWC and the SGIFF team. It was not a difficult decision as Trãn has been at the forefront of the wave of acclaimed overseas Vietnamese cinema for the past two decades.

Trãn’s debut movie, The Scent of Green Papaya (1993), received an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film and won the Caméra d’Or prize at the Cannes Festival. He continues to make significant films that evoke a myriad of emotions. With the exception of Éternité (French for eternity; 2016), all of Trãn’s films are in Vietnamese and focus on the country’s culture.

Is it true to say that IWC selects independent movies rather than blockbusters?
Not at all! At IWC, th ere is no distinction between blockbusters and independent movies. Instead, we look at the talent and pioneering spirit of the filmmaker and, most of all, the significance of the message that the film conveys.

Working with filmmakers and movie stars is part of IWC’s DNA. How important are such collaborations?
We have enjoyed a long and illustrious association with the world of filmmaking through collaborations and connections with movies, actors and filmmakers. Such [efforts] are important as they set the brand apart from others. They also add glamour and exemplify IWC’s passion for and dedication to filmmaking. As I’ve said, the worlds of filmmaking and fine watch making share many similarities. Story telling is an exceptionally important common thread and the collaborations reinforce IWC’s dedication to filmmaking.

As a movie buff yourself, what are you looking forward to at the SGIFF?
Yuni and her team have outdone themselves again — there are so many outstanding and interesting films to pick from! But if there is one film that I definitely want to catch, and recommend, it would be Trãn’s Éternité, which will make its Asian premiere at the SGIFF.

PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS
Still cannot decide which movie to watch? This list may help:

Asian premiere of SGIFF’s opening film, Interchange (2016; below) — a noir fantasy thriller by Malaysian filmmaker Dain Iskandar Said

World premiere of four new features by Singapore directors Kan Lume, Min-Wei Ting, Sam Loh and Jerrold Chong, under Singapore Panorama

World premiere of Hooly Bible II (2016; below right) by Golden Leopard winner Li Hongqi, who examines violence and apathy in China

World premiere of Walking Street (2016) by prolific South Korean provocateur Lee Sang-wo. It stars Korean heartthrob Baek Sung-hyun (Blades of Blood and Korean drama Doctors).

Asian premiere of The Woman Who Left (2016), the latest opus by Filipino director Lav Diaz, which won the Golden Lion award at the 73rd Venice Film Festival. It focuses on social disparity.

Other noteworthy works on the line-up include the international premiere of Voyage of Terengganu (2016) by pioneering Malaysian New Wave director Amir Muhammad, who is making a return to filmmaking after a seven-year hiatus. Badrul Hisham Ismail co-directs the movie.

Another is award-winning, Vietnamese-born French director Trãn Anh Hung’s first film in that language, Éternité (2016). It stars French actresses Audrey Tautou, Melanie Laurent and Berenice Bejo.

There is also I, Daniel Blake (2016) by British filmmaker Ken Loach, which won the Palme d’Or for best feature film at Cannes in May

BEHIND THE SCENES
The 27th edition of the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is screening an interesting mix of independent works by filmmakers and their creative teams.

Moviegoers will be thrilled to know that there will be 16 world premieres, nine international premieres and 18 Asian premieres. Yuni Hadi, executive director of SGIFF, shares the details of putting the event together.

How did you decide who you want to work with?
We find like-minded partners and those who strongly believe in nurturing film talent and celebrating the discovery of independent cinema. We work together to deliver a rich experience for festival-goers, recognise talents in the region, and facilitate a robust and in-depth discussion on films.

There is a growing number of companies that recognise the importance of putting their brand behind nurturing Singapore and Asian talents. If they are willing to do that, it becomes a natural partnership, where a lot of opportunities can be explored. SGIFF has multiple platforms with our film screenings, forums and workshops, where we connect with our audience face-to-face, and brands appreciate this personal touch.

What can moviegoers expect from this year’s crop of films?
There are a lot of choices, from dramas to musicals, animation and documentaries. In addition to our regular film sections, fans can look forward to discovering hidden gems in independent cinema, such as Estonian animation shorts, Nepali shorts and Latin American cinema, which the 27th SGIFF will spotlight.

There will also be a series of masterclasses conducted by renowned filmmakers. Among them are Darren Aronofsky, the director of Pi (1998) and Black Swan (2010), Japanese director and Cannes Festival regular Naomi Kawase, and Vietnamese-born French director and the recipient of this year’s IWC Filmmaker Award, Trãn Anh Hung.

If you are deciding which film to watch, I would say select the stories that intrigue you but also give yourself a chance to discover something new by picking a film that you would not normally go to watch. We will be screening the winners of the Audience Choice Award and Best Film at the Silver Screen Awards on Dec 4. These will be surprise screenings because the results would only be out on Dec 3, and on the morning of the last day of the festival.

What was the movie selection process like? How does one pick one movie over another?
The festival’s focus continues to strongly emphasise Asia and Southeast Asia. A festival like ours is about finding an original voice, discovering new and emerging filmmakers and unearthing films that speak to audiences with a distinct expression. We also identify fresh approaches and innovation in the industry. Ultimately, we want to deliver a quality line-up that is compact and focused.

For details, please log on to sgiff.com.

This article appeared in the Options of Issue 756 (Nov 28) of The Edge Singapore.