“Were I to choose an auspicious image for the new millennium, I would choose that one: the sudden agile leap of the poet-philosopher who raises himself above the weight of the world, showing that with all his gravity, he has the secret of lightness.” - Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the New Millennium
After three editions, Legacy and the Expanded Classic, Post-Empires and Potentialities, this final edition, Enchantment is arguably the most relatable season from SIFA. As you might know, festival director Ong Keng Sen reshuffled almost 50 percent of 2017’s programming in response to 2016’s shocking events, Brexit and the U.S. election. We’re all attuned to the cultural context that Keng Sen refers to: a “disenchanted world” that seems to be spiralling further and further into division and fear.
Cue enchantment. A surprising twist of events, but the festival has always been one to subvert my assumptions…
With this season, I can also finally see a connecting thread to SIFA’s journey over the last four years. To put it simply: Legacy acknowledged the weight of the past; Post-Empires grappled with its consequences; while Potentialities took tentative steps towards an unknown future. Enchantmentfinally makes that creative leap of faith, with its attitude of wonder and ethical generosity. Enchantment is about the ways we can access this “secret of lightness” in our lives – be it laughter, wit, compassion and generosity.
One could enter the world of Germinal where four friends “begin their lives from scratch”. Or dance the night away with Christian Rizzo in Le Syndrome Ian. Perhaps the plant kingdom might teach me a thing or two in Vegetative State. Lebanese culinary activist Kamal Mouzawak is a one-man walking movement in his attitude of “Make Food Not War”, a striking example of the power to create even in the midst of a war zone. The spirit of generosity is well and alive as everyday Singaporeans open their homes and kitchens in O.P.E.N. Kitchens and Open Homes.
Enchantment also calls to mind the 2015 edition that boasted a strong showing of Singaporean work. For many Singaporeans, it was definitely one of the high points of SIFA. One creation etched in my memory was Returning by Cultural Medallion Goh Lay Kuan, with its exhilarating fusion of multi-cultural influences translated into dance and a gorgeous soundtrack. With 16 Singaporean commissions, SIFA 2017 is looking to be an exciting final edition, with a number of good surprises along the way.
Singaporean Mandarin novelist Yeng Pway Ngon’s novel will be adapted for the stage for the first time in Art Studio, while graphic novelist Sonny Liew is set to create a brand-new graphic novel for the stage in Becoming Graphic. In a risky undertaking, live performers from the audience will become stars of Lizard on The Wall, The Film by K. Rajagopal (we have our fingers crossed this goes well!)
That’s not to say all shows this festival season will leave you in an enchanted mood. There are programmes which open up a whole smorgasbord of ethical questions – from SIFA’s Guilty Landscapes III to Henrico’s Farm to My Lai, which address topics as diverse as poverty, migrant workers to the Vietnam War. The film Miss Kiet’s Children, which plays at The O.P.E.N., follows the lives of refugee children in a Dutch village, unearthing the world of political power plays from the perspective of innocent children.
But like the Italian writer Italo Calvino’s “poet-philosopher”, perhaps we could all take that step back, and realise that despite the sham and drudgery, there’s still a beautiful world to be enjoyed.
How will you experience enchantment at SIFA 2017?