From films that have achieved international acclaim, like Ilo Ilo, to the experimental documentary Singapore GaGa, the first Singapore Film Festival in Moscow has given the Russian capital a taste of Singaporean cinema for the first time.
“For people who don’t know much about Singapore and Asian culture, it will give them a different view of how things are,” said Liubov Siraya, a festival attendee.
Ms Siraya is a Moscow-based businesswoman who speaks Chinese, and after several trips to Singapore, has developed a passion for the culture. She said Singapore GaGa was eye-opening.
“This was a bit of Singapore which I know, but there were some moments which I really didn’t expect to see. So I was really impressed,” she said.
The festival at the Pioneer movie theatre in downtown Moscow is part of a new commitment by Russia and Singapore to boost cultural cooperation between their nations.
An agreement was signed during Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to Russia in May, with the Ministries of Culture promising further cultural exchanges in the lead-up to the 2018 celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Russia and Singapore.
“Russia and Singapore will be celebrating 50 years of bilateral relations in 2018 and there are plans to organise several cultural events to commemorate this milestone,” Jonathan Chen, the Singapore Embassy in Moscow’s first secretary said.
The embassy, which helped organise the festival, said the response has been encouraging.
“I think that the Singapore economic story is very well-known among Russian politicians and businessmen who are interested in doing business in Asia,” said Mr Chen. “But more can be done to promote the culture here and we hope that this film festival will acquaint viewers with a bit of Singapore’s history and culture.”
Other films on offer included Eric Khoo’s 1997 drama 12 Storeys, the top-grossing 2007 musical comedy 881 by Royston Tan, and Jiekai Liao’s 2014 drama As You Were.
For Ms Siraya, her favourite was Ilo Ilo, the family drama which in 2013 became the first Singaporean feature film to be awarded a prize at Cannes.
“There was an interesting story about the Filipino nanny in the family, how they treat children, what kind of education they give children, about how to accept people … I found (all of that) really interesting,” she said.
Organisers said the films were picked to show Russian audiences not only some of the most beloved films in Singapore, but also to represent the nation’s broad cultural and linguistic diversity.