Saturday, July 26, 2008

[5th Singapore Short Cuts] 3rd Week

I guess the full house in today's session continues to attest to the popularity of this event in our cinematic calendar. With works from familiar faces like Victric Thng and Boo Junfeng, today's session also marks the very first public screening of Martyn See's Speakers Cornered. Green Zeng's Blank Rounds unfortunately was pulled from the today's schedule.

Twogether - Victric Thng

This is an extremely short piece running 1.5 minutes long, and goes to show that you don't need to artificially bloat your movies in order to get your point across. Effectively sweet like a Hallmark card like message, it's played out to the tune of the childhood song "The More We Get Together". Been quite a while since I saw something this short, but still packing a powerful punch. Not to mention the visually interesting scene too, where you're wondering "How?" (Victric did explain during the Q&A session, as recounted below)

Bedok Jetty - Boo Junfeng

Filmed as part of the Digital Homelands project by the National Museum of Singapore, this film is presented quite uniquely in having 3 permanent panels, one for the visuals that transpire at what I would like to interpret as in a different timeline from the other 2 panels. Filmed at the titular jetty, we get to see avid anglers doing their thing, as well as the myriad of folks who pass by, amongst which are a couple on the brink of a break.

The other 2 panels showcase an internet messaging session using MSN between d and f, as they talk about school, and one of them inevitably gears the conversation towards his difficulty in moving on, despite the other being able to do so with ease. Nonetheless this aspect of the story might strike a chord with the audience. The film's totally silent (i.e. not a talkie), save for the ambient sound of strong winds at the Jetty.

Caramel / 黑默糖 - Kelvin Ke

I wonder how many in the audience today would have silently wished that the female character in the short would stand up for her rights and not idly sit by and suffer from being a victim of domestic violence and emotional blackmail. The husband, being a drinker, gambler and womanizer all rolled into one by director Kelvin Ke, makes him a vile character to begin with, though his sweet talking and tender moments where he obviously wants something, somehow manages to anchor his wife from flying the coop.

But of course, there's always the last straw that breaks the donkey's back. And when that line is crossed, then revenge is a dish best served cold. Being a PG rated film, you don't get to see any related violence although this movie is inspired by body parts murders in Singapore. You get the idea, and so there's no necessity in having the film play out these moments to satisfy our blood lust. I thought the casting was excellent given that we aren't presented with aesthetically pleasing to the eye candy, but actors who managed to flesh out their roles adequately without unnecessary distraction.

Speakers Cornered - Martyn See

Filmed in September 2006 where Dr Chee Soon Juan and his supporters wanted to lead a protest march from Hong Lim Park's Speakers Corner to Parliament House during the IMF-World Bank meet, this documentary just charts the proceedings between Dr Chee's group and the police in their stand off and stalemate between one another, neither side willing to budge, and neither side willing to compromise. Without a commentary in order not to run afoul of the law again, Martyn See's film covers the highlights of the 3 days standoff (most of which of course you don't get to see in the mainstream media), where you can see that there's a disproportionate amount of resource poured in order to keep perceived lawlessness at bay. Troops on the ground really need to be empowered, or given adequate information to deal with harassment, because being tight-lipped when questioned by people around, doesn't really make for a good impression.

In any case, I'm still amazed by the number of cameras and photographers at the scene (not counting Martyn's), and the entire incident played out like a media circus, with journalists wanting to cover every angle, and both sides employing tit-for-tat videographers to document all angles of the incident as well so that neither side could point an accusatory finger at the other, without contradictory evidence popping up.

LtoR: Low Beng Kheng (Substation; Moderator), Kelvin Ke, Martyn See, Victric Thng

As staple in the programme, a Q&A session was conducted with the directors, although Boo Junfeng was unable to attend today's session. As always, here's the excerpt from this afternoon's Q&A session, and any inaccuracies are faults of mine alone.

Beng Kheng: Perhaps the filmmakers would like to introduce the films they made and share a bit more about their respective films?
Victric: This is a 1.5 minute short which was completed last year. I actually had the footage for quite a while, which was shot in 2004 during a filmmakers exchange between Singapore and Malaysia at the Asian Film Symposium. I love the footage and I knew I had to do something about it some day, and inspiration hit me last year. Often I'm asked about whether I'm making the transition into feature length films, and it gets frustrating when asked "what's next?" so this film was in direct response to that!
Martyn: This was made 2 years back, and one month after the making of Singapore Rebel. This is the first time my film has been passed and allowed to be screen publicly. Today's occasion is a symbolic exercise, since it's already available on YouTube and more than 15,000 people have seen it. This was shot as a newsreel and edited in the way the event had happened.
Kelvin: This is my first public screening. I had decided to stop making crap short films and to tell a story instead. It was tough shooting it but ultimately fun to watch with a group of people.

Victric to Beng Kheng: Did you guys face any problems in screening Martyn's film?
Beng Kheng: There's no insurmountable problem, and this is an NC16 session. When we applied for the license it went without a hitch, and the change of venue was actually a logistics problem instead.

Q: Where was Twogether shot?
Victric: It was shot in Malaysia somewhere near JB, as it was part of an exchange programme where filmmakers had to cross boundaries.
Q: How was the sliding done?
Victric: It was done digitally frame by frame by my editor, and it had to coincide with the time of the music.
Q: Was it shot at an artificial or natural environment?
Victric: It was partially artificial and natural, where the local community actually goes there for a swim.

Q: Your short has been screened overseas. What were the audience reactions like?
Martyn: It's not much of a response. In Taiwan, the audience size was 5, and in Malaysia it's something like what it is today. But this is something no big deal to them, and I'm probably the last of the videomen and cameramen that day to have put out the film.

Martyn had also shared that there were other stuff shot, but were mostly the boring stuff, like groups of people staring at each other. The more dramatic stuff are found in the movie, and there was no self-censorship on this one, as he felt that he was filling a vacuum of citizen journalism where the mainstream press don't cover.

Q: What was your inspiration, and was it based on a real situation?
Kelvin: A few years back, there was this series of murders involving body parts. I was curious and the story started coming out, for example, the one involving a Singaporean man and his foreign lover, from love to macabre murder. I was interested in exploring this relationship, and things that men and women do to each other.

Beng Kheng: And to wrap up, perhaps you could share with us your upcoming projects?
Victric: An idea for a feature script has come. I will probably be doing more short films before I start writing that script.
Martyn: I spend most of my time doing freelance editing for directors. The last piece of work is Money No Enough 2 which will be released soon.
Kelvin: I have a couple of projects, and I hope to be able to screen one next year!


Next week will be the final installment for this year's Short Cuts, and the venue will be switched back to The National Museum Gallery Theatre. No doubt that Anthony Chen's Haze would be one of the highlights in next week's lineup. So do make sure you're found at the right place!

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