A great humanist story, confident and nuanced, with a strong script and engaging direction.
This was how the jury for the 31st Singapore International Film Festival’s Silver Screen Awards described Indian director Ivan Ayr’s film, Milestone, which won Best Film under the Asian Feature Film Competition category.
The winners for this year’s awards were announced yesterday, on the last day of the festival.
Milestone, a film about an ageing Punjabi trucker in New Delhi who finds his life stalled by a workers’ strike, the loss of his wife and an inexplicable pain in his back, also won actor Suvinder Vicky an award for Best Performance.
Ayr recounted the challenges of working on the film during the pandemic, adding that shooting for the film was completed in early February when he started to notice news about the coronavirus.
“I honestly never imagined anything like a lockdown in my wildest dreams, but soon enough, I found myself editing the film alone, staring at uncertainty and fighting anxiety attacks.”
He added: “Film festivals are more important than ever in these times as humanity, now separated by border closures, needs to understand our lives are much more closely connected than we had imagined. And what better way to learn about each other than through stories.”
Georgian director Dea Kulumbegashvili picked up the Best Director award under the Asian Feature Film category with her film, Beginning. The film is centred on a Jehovah’s Witnesses missionary seeking justice in a remote Georgian town following an attack on her church.
Singaporean director Nelson Yeo’s Here Is Not There won the Best Singapore Short Film award under the South-east Asian Short Film Competition category.
Set in the stillness of the graveyard shift, the film tells the story of two lovers as they reflect on the transitory lives they lead in Singapore and wrestle with the inevitability of their fates.
The jury described the film as inspiring and praised its ambition in addressing important issues surrounding migrant workers, exploitation, work-related injury and discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace.
“I guess the third time’s the charm,” said Yeo, who had participated in the film festival twice before this year.
He added: “The pandemic this year forces us to rethink our priorities.
“No matter how good or bad the times are, I believe that there are stories worth telling and, for us, films worth making.”