"Scales" (aka "Sayidat Al Bahr"), directed by Saudi Arabian first-time filmmaker, Shahad Ameen, was named as the best film in the Asian feature competition at the 30th edition of the Singapore International Film Festival.
The tale of a young girl who defies her village's harsh and chauvinistic traditions to prove her worth, collected the festival's Silver Screen Award on Saturday at a ceremony held in the National Museum of Singapore.
The blue carpet event welcomed local figures Boo Junfeng, Royston Tan, and Tan Pin Pin, as well as film industry officials Joachim Ng, and Howie Lau. Chinese acting star Yao Chen ("Lost, Found," "Send Me to the Clouds") and Japanese director Miike Takashi were also present to pick up special awards. Yao spiced up proceedings, with a throw-away comment: "recently I have been able to play several characters who found the strength to go after the love and sex that they wanted."
Anthony Chen, whose film" Wet Season" opened the festival a week earlier, returned to Singapore having fitted in a round Asia trip that included the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan, and the Filmex festival in Tokyo.
"Singapore is making some very amazing films," said Chen. "But Singapore cinema cannot be sustainable if audiences don't go and see them."
"Scales" recounts a story of a fishing village which believes that every family should sacrifice a daughter in order to appease sea monsters and guarantee a good catch. The 12-year-old girl is saved from ritual sacrifice by her father and, rather than live with the shame of being spared, sets out to slay some other monsters. The jury found it to be a "very original and strong film from a first-time filmmaker who speaks about patriarchy with the simplicity of a fable."
"It took me six years to make this film, the way I wanted, as feminist as I wanted," Ameen said from the stage.
The competition jury was headed by India's Anurag Kashyap, Malaysian movie producer, Amir Muhammad, veteran Hong Kong director and screenwriter Pang Ho-cheung, and Indonesian filmmaker Nia Dinata. The Southeast Asian Film Lab awards were decided by a panel that included Aditya Assarat, Teresa Kwong Lee Chatametikool.
The festival is held at multiple venues cross Singapore and runs Nov 21 to Dec 1