SINGAPORE: The National Gallery Singapore has launched a new film festival, which will focus on all things related to art.
The inaugural edition of Painting With Light: International Festival of Films On Art will run from Oct 7 to 29.
It features over 30 works, such as an experimental film starring award-winning actress Cate Blanchett, profiles of personalities such as renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic and Singaporean photographer John Clang, as well as behind-the-scenes documentaries on institutions like the Paris Opera Ballet and the Royal Ballet of Cambodia.
The annual festival is a reworking of the museum’s previous Painting With Light monthly series on Southeast Asian films. In expanding the series’ scope and turning it into a month-long annual festival, National Gallery Singapore hopes to give it an extended focus, said Suenne Megan Tan, the museum’s director for audience development and engagement.
“As a new museum, we are trying new ways of programming. We’ve always believed that art makes connections across all the different forms and an interdisciplinary approach to the programming allows audiences to connect with the collection that we are showcasing,” said Tan.
Painting With Light is the museum’s first in-house film festival, but it has already been a partnering venue for the likes of Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) and European Union Film Festival.
Among the highlights is Manifesto, starring Cate Blanchett. Directed by German artist Julian Rosefeldt, it features the actress performing 13 monologues based on some of the world’s most influential art manifestos that gave birth to movements such as Dadaism, Surrealism and Pop Art.
Behind-the-scenes films include those that look at the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, and even Indonesia’s film censorship. The latter is courtesy of the documentary film Cuts, which follows the efforts of two film-makers whose film comes up against the censorship board in 2008.
The festival’s opening film, The New Rijksmuseum, chronicles the ups and down of the famous Dutch museum’s renovation, which took a decade. With the museum’s own story uncannily similar to that of Singapore’s own National Gallery, it’s a film that the festival’s curator Pauline Soh urges Singaporeans to catch.
“The whole process of putting the Gallery together took 10 years with some delays. In the film, you see disagreements about the design of the galleries and a director resigning; The Rijksmuseum is also a state-funded public institution where Parliament has a big say on when it should open and how to use the budget – I hope a lot of Singaporeans will come to have a look at what goes on behind the building of a national gallery.”
Another section of the festival features films commissioned by institutions, where film-makers “transcend the commissioner’s agenda to create works of art”.
“Art institutions, whether they are national museums, regulatory systems like censorship boards and commissioning bodies, as well as traditions of art, greatly influence the way the way a society deals with art and makes decisions,” she said.
The lineup also includes documentaries on performance artist Marina Abramovic’s trip to Brazil, China’s counterfeit painters and North Korea’s so-called propaganda art.
Among the works from Singapore are short films by Liao Jiekai, who documented his grandmother’s funeral, and Kirsten Tan, who created a portrait of New York-based Singaporean photographer John Clang.
The museum’s own commissioned film anthology Art Through Our Eyes will also be screened once more. The omnibus had its premier last year, and it features Southeast Asian directors’ interpretation of the museum’s artworks. It has also been shown at SGIFF and the Busan International Film Festival.