Hubert Burda Media

SIFA 2017: 5 shows we can’t wait for

The last festival with Ong Keng Sen at the helm might just be the best one yet.

The upcoming Singapore International Festival of Arts will be the last one headed by Founding Festival Director Ong Keng Sen, and judging by the lineup, it’s set to be a spectacular send-off to mark the end of the theatre pioneer’s tenure. Taking place from June 28 to September 9, the festival will, for the first time, present the pre-festival O.P.E.N. and the main show as one continuous series of events spanning four months. Enchantment, the theme of this year’s festival, represents its hope to offer an antidote to the rampant disillusionment and cynicism that plagues our world.

Comprising more than 90 events led by Singapore-based artists, the immersive, participatory programme aims to blur the boundary between the audience and artists, promoting moving across borders instead of building walls, Ong says. Here are our picks of the events that do that and more.


1. Le Syndrome Ian

Presented in collaboration with Van Cleef & Arpels, this exploration of spontaneous dancing in a nightclub was awarded the Fedora – Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet 2015, and it represents the conclusion to choreographer Christian Rizzo’s trilogy based on anonymous dances. Set in a London nightclub in 1979, the heyday of post-punk, the production recreates the thrill of a first visit to the disco, and makes its Asia-Pacific premiere at SIFA.


2. Guilty Landscapes III

The Asia-Pacific premiere of Dries Verhoeven’s interactive video installation challenges feelings of guilt, discomfort and shame by posing the question, “What if the people we watch on the news can look back at us?” An empty, pristine gallery space is transformed into a disconcerting landscape, with each minutes-long performance involving just one actor and one member of the audience who connect and engage with each other via videolink. 


3. Lizard on the Wall

The audience become actors in this K Rajagopal project, an inventive take on interactive performance, which will be filmed with cast members recruited during The O.P.E.N. pre-festival. The adaptation of Balli Kaur Jaswal’s novel Inheritance is set at a wedding banquet in the family home, with embarrassing secrets coming into the open, and the film’s red carpet gala, on September 9–10, doubles as the closing event for SIFA 2017.


4. Henrico’s Farm

The auteur who snagged the 2016 Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the 2016 Silver Bear at Berlin International Film Festival, Lav Diaz will film his new project in Singapore, offering the SIFA audience a behind-the-scenes look at how a movie is made. About a Filipino migrant worker returning home after spending 30 years in Frankfurt, the screenplay explores the tension between foreignness and familiarity, and the transcendental significance of moments of connection.


5. O.P.E.N. Picnic

Break bread with strangers and leave the party as friends. This pop-up culinary and cultural showcase is the brainchild of Lebanese chef, activist and social innovator Kamal Mouzawak, and four chefs from his Beirut-based social enterprise Tawlet will cook up a storm in an exhibition of Lebanon’s food heritage. 

Tickets to SIFA are on sale at all Sistic outlets