Indian filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane won the Best Film and the Best Director awards at the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) for his first feature film Court, which centers around the justice system in the country.

“This glittering gem dazzles with its simplicity, elegance and breathtaking naturalism. Every facet of this film shines, from the humanity of its screenplay, to the originality of its structure, to the assuredness of its direction.

“A brilliant achievement,” read the jury citation of the Tamhane film presented last night at the 25thedition of the  Singapore International Film Festival.

Court follows the trial of an outcaste Dalit folk singer and unveils the power structures of society and prejudices of the court. The film features trial of the ageing singer for abetting the suicide of a sewerage worker with an inflammatory song. Written and directed by Tamhane, Court, a multilingual drama featuring actor-producer Vivek Gomber in the lead role, has already won a number of other awards at many international cinematographic events.

Amongst other films, Dahdi (Granny), directed by New York-based Kristen Tan, won the Best South-east Asian Short Film Award.

The film by 33-year old Tan was inspired by a 2012-event where 40 boat people were picked up by a Vietnamese ship denied entry into Singapore. They were believed to be Rohingya refugees escaping violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state. The film is set on a Singapore islet and involves a Rohingya girl looking for refuge, who drops in on an elderly widow. Dahdi took in the girl seeking asylum.

“I felt like I wanted to do a film where there’s a conflict between moral and legal responsibilities,” Tan stated in The Sunday Times interview.

In all, 11 feature films and 19 short films were nominated for the awards at the largest and longest-running film event in Singapore since 1987 which focuses on groundbreaking Asian cinema and discovering new film talents from South-east Asia.