Fukuoka Audience Award and Kumamoto City Award Winners
“Halal Love (and Sex)” Wins the Fukuoka Audience Award
“Seven Letters” Takes the Kumamoto City Award
At Fukuoka’s film festival (Focus on Asia Fukuoka International Film Festival), there are two awards presented. The Fukuoka Audience Award is presented to the film that wins the most number of votes from the film festival audience. The Kumamoto City Award is the runner up award.
This year, the Fukuoka Audience Award was awarded on September 20th to “Halal Love (and Sex)” directed by Assad Foulandkar, a Lebanese-German comedy on how couples in Beirut deal with their personal relationships without offending the teachings of the Quran. The Kumamoto City Award went to “Seven Letters” an omnibus film directed by 7 top filmmakers in Singapore commemorating Singapore’s 50th Anniversary.
Darine Hamze, in accepting the Fukuoka Audience Award for film director Assad Foulandkar said that “cinema unites us all by sharing our stories on the white screen no matter how different our cultures, religion, views, opinions and way of life may be.” Thanking all parties for the award, she added to what Film Festival Director Yasuhiro Hariki said at the Opening Ceremony that “cinema is a window to each other’s world and life experiences and I’m glad and honored I opened this small window of our film to you.”
Film director Royston Tan, in accepting the Kumamoto City Award representing the other 6 film directors of “Seven Letters”, thanked the film festival and said “Fukuoka is a very special place for me. The last time I was here was 10 years ago. So when I was given the invitation to come to Fukuoka, I dropped all my work to come to this festival to visit all the wonderful people here. I just want to share this award with all the new filmmakers and friends I met here.” He closed his remarks by saying, “Awards like these keeps us going to make more and more films.”
FUKUOKA AUDIENCE AWARD WINNER
“HALAL LOVE (AND SEX)”
DIRECTOR’S PROFILE Assad Fouladkar
Born in Lebanon and a professor at Beirut’s Lebanese American University, Assad Fouladkar studied filmmaking at Boston University in the United States. His thesis short film “God Have Mercy” won 13 international film festival awards. He made his debut as a feature film director with “When Maryam Spoke Out” (2001), which won awards in the Arab world, Europe and the United States and became Lebanon’s official entry to the Academy Awards. “Halal Love (and Sex) is his latest film.
Beirut is an open-minded international city and yet it also has many religious restrictions based on the Islamic faith. Through three couples who live in Beirut, this film depicts how everyday people struggle to come to terms with marital problems, love and sexuality between men and women, all without breaking the teachings of the Quran.
From the day they hear their teacher in school say “babies are made when a bug from a man’s body enters the female body”, two very young sisters start wearing garbage bags before they sleep. Their mother, Awatef, loves her husband but starts to look for a second wife for him due to his excessive sex drive of making sexual advances towards her every night.
In another apartment in the same complex lives a young married couple. Mokhtar, the husband, is the jealous type and this causes the couple to fight endlessly, resulting in a repetition of divorcing and then remarrying each other. They finally divorce for the third time, but still want to get back together. However, the Quran teaches that in order to remarry the fourth time, the woman must first marry a different man. Without any other choice, they start to look for a candidate.
Having ended an undesirable marriage forced upon her by her parents, Loubna, who is just divorced, finally will end up marrying the man she really loves. However, because he has family, the marriage must be on a short term contract. Meanwhile, she starts to apply for a visa, hoping to start her new life in Australia where her brother lives.
Born and raised in Beirut, Assad Foulandkar, the film director, studied filmmaking in the United States away from home at a time when countries of the West are in conflict with Islamic nations. While the attributive general image of those of the Islamic faith have changed rapidly since 911, what the film director depicts in the film is the genuine everyday life of Moslems on the other side of the veil they wear. While they may appear considerably different as far as religious regulations and customs are concerned, the person wearing the veil is just as human as anyone else. This is a great comedy that convinces us while we laugh that character and feelings and especially worldly passion between men and women are universal without much differences.
KUMAMOTO CITY AWARD WINNER
After studying filmmaking at film schools in Singapore and Spain, Boo Junfeng made his feature film debut with “Sandcastle” (2010), which made its premier at the “International Critics’ Week ” of the Cannes Film Festival and won Best Film, Best Director and the NETPAC Jury Award at the Vietnam International Film Festival. His follow up, “Apprentice” (2016) was shown at the Cannes Film Festival’s “Uncertain Regard”, a division of the festival’s official selection.
Eric Khoo’s “12 Storeys” (1997) won the FIPRESCI Award at the Singapore International Film Festival and was the first Singaporean film to be invited to the Cannes Film Festival. “Be With Me” (2005) was shown at the Director’s Fortnight section at Cannes, and “My Magic” (2008) became the first Singaporean film to be nominated for Cannes’ Palme d’Or Award. “Tatumi” (2001), his first animation, was shown at Cannes and made its North American premiere at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
K. Rajagopal took the Special Jury Prize at the Singapore International Film Festival for three consecutive years with “I Can’t Sleep Tonight” (1995), “The Glare” (1996) and “Absence” (1997), which were well received at international film festivals abroad. In “Lucky 7” (2008), he participated with 6 other directors in an omnibus film, which was shown in Rotterdam, Singapore and Vancouver. Apart from a film director, K. Rajagopal has directed theater and is a stage actor.
Jack Neo ventured into the film industry with “Money No Enough” (1998), Singapore’s third highest grossing feature film to date. He followed up with his award winning “I’m Not Stupid” (2002). “I’m Not Stupid Too (2006),was shown at Cannes. “Homerun” (2003), a remake of the Iranian film “Children of Heaven”, won 6 international film awards and became the first Singaporean film to receive an international film award abroad.
Tan Pin Pin
Tan Pin Pin entered the film industry with her documentary film “Moving House” (2001). She won an award with “Invisible City” (2007) from the Cinema du Reel Awards. “Singapore with Love” (2013) won the Asian Cinema Fund at the 2013 Pusan International Film Festival. The film went on to win the Best Documentary Award at the Dubai International Film Festival. Tan Pin Pin is also a board member of the Singapore International Film Festival.
“15” (2003), the first Singaporean film to be invited to compete for the “Lion of the Future Award” at the Venice Film Festival, won the Special Jury and Best Director Award at the Buenoes Aires VI Festival Internatcional de Cine Independiente. “4:30” (2006) and “881” (2007) were shown at our festival. “881” in particular, was selected as Singapore’s official entry to the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Division. R. Tan continues to direct much talked about short and feature films.
Kelvin Tong’s entered the film industry with “Moveable Feast” (1995), a short film he co-directed, which won an award at the International Short Film Festival Clermont-Ferrand and became the first Singapore film to be showcased at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His major works include “Eating Air” (1999), “The Maid” (2005), “Love Story” (2006), “Rule #1” (2007), and “It’s A Great, Great World” (2011) , which was shown at our festival.
Seven of Singapore’s biggest film directors present seven “love letters” to their country in “7 Letters”. First on the list is Eric Khoo, a leading figure who became the first Singaporean film director to be invited to such major film festivals as Berlin, Venice and Cannes, and who succeeded in restoring his country’s film industry, putting Singapore on the map of world cinema. “7 Letters”, a production of the coming together of seven of Singapore’s most noted film directors in commemoration of Singapore’s 50th Anniversary, also presents Boo Junfeng, who has constantly attracted attention ever since his first feature film “Sandcastle” (2010) was presented at the International Film Critics’ Week of the Cannes International Film Festival. In all, “7 Letters” is a film that thoroughly displays the art of creative storytelling and filmmaking.
The theme is presented as a heart stirring memory about or with some connection to what each film director calls his or her “home”. “CINEMA” by Eric Khoo, depicts an old man who flees a nursing home to see his former filmmaking buddies just because he sees an old film. “THAT GIRL” by Jack Neo depicts a bittersweet yet heartwarming page in the first love of a young girl attracted to a classmate who acts a bit elated. “THE FLAME” by K Rajagopal depicts the struggle of a young couple of Indian descent pressured into deciding whether to move to Britain or stay in Singapore when the British army totally withdraws. “BUNGA SAYANG” by Royston Tan depicts in a dreamy fashion, the unconventional relationship between a neighboring individual of Malay descent who can’t communicate with a boy of Chinese descent. “PINEAPPLE TOWN” by Tan Pin Pin depicts a story about a woman who leaves Malaysia to visit the real mother of her child delivered through a surrogate birth. “PARTING” by Boo Junfeng depicts the painful story of an old man of Malayan descent in search of his first love from the distant past. “GRANDMA POSITIONING SYSTEM (GPS)” by Kevin Tong depicts a family portrait, presented a bit comically but which can still move you to tears, about an old woman and her son’s family making a visit to the grave of her late husband in the countryside. Through seven Singaporean episodes by seven film directors with differences in language, race, age generation and background, this film will help us get to the core to understand the people who live here.