One of our premier festivals showcasing the very best of Singapore short films, this year's edition somehow found itself starting off with some controversies with regards to its lineup. Presented this time by the National Museum of Singapore and Singapore Film Commission without the participation of The Substation, the format has also been tweaked slightly, compressing 4 sessions into 2 weekends, from the traditional Saturday afternoon screenings.
The Robber / 打抢
Dir: Eric Youwei Lin
2009 | 7 min | No dialogue | PG
The Robber tells of a face off between a young boy and an old bearded man in and around the latter's provision shop in an idyllic village. Centered around the misunderstanding of a misplaced currency note, it explodes into something deeply personal, with a treatment that leaps out of a martial arts epic over the theme of revenge, with an operatic feel thanks to its use of classical Chinese instruments in a dialogue-free narrative. Kept extremely simple and accessible, with very beautiful production values.
Dir: Sun Koh
2009 | 14 min | Mandarin, French and English with English subtitles | R21
Sun Koh's Dirty Bitch could probably be a companion piece to Royston Tan's Cut, except that the latter was more direct in its criticism and hence resulted in a ban. Dirty Bitch had what I felt was similar threads of criticisms, where you can't run from the metaphor of a scissors wielding woman who barges without much welcome into her brother's home, and then forcefully takes over when told she has no place in his abode. Naturally this resulted in vengeance, control and a blinding of senses which she gleefully preceded over.
No prizes of course for attempts to allude the imagery to real life, where we are at the mercies of others who probably and likely have no welcome in any of our lives if we're given a choice, especially not when they're forced into our world. It's something unfortunate we live by. Anyway Sun's short film was inspired by Claire Denis' Nenette and Boni, which has the basic characters, and is largely divided into 3 acts – the inspiration portion from Denis' film, a french rap music video which was quite psychedelic, and an aftermath which I felt was a reminder that the antagonist has zero respect for in the larger world. That's just my thoughts. Rated R21 of course for its first act which was full of wild sexual innuendos.
Sex, Trauma & Violence
Dir: Brian Gothong Tan
2009 | 7:40 min | No dialogue | M18
Sex, Trauma & Violence is an experimental piece by Brian Gothong Tan. Presented in black and white and sans dialogue, this psycho-drama of sorts follows the life of a woman with what I felt was a voyeuristic look into her own past being played out like a projection of her mind into reality. You know I don't fare too well with reality and fantasy meshed up together especially when it isn't too pronounced, and this film had each of the moments in the title carefully presented in sections.
As with all editions of the Short Cut series, a Q&A session will follow after the film screenings, and today's session was moderated by film producer Juan Foo. I had decided not to film the session, but I probably would (because I can't read my handwriting already) for the subsequent ones. Here are some of the excerpts:
Sun Koh shared about how she had gotten the inspiration for her short Dirty Bitch. She was commissioned by the International Film Festival Rotterdam to make a short about Claire Denis. Not being familiar with her works meant Sun had to study them, but the libraries here had them under the Restricted section, meaning you had to request for special access permission. Given that Denis' Nenette and Boni was not restricted, Sun had decided to watch that first while waiting for approval to the others. Curiously, there were about 10 moments of that VHS tape which was blacked out, which was approximately 20-30 mins worth of film being censored, so Sun was inspired by that episode to make her film Dirty Bitch.
Sun also mentioned that she had to reject a few jobs just to do this commissioned film. She also explained for the benefit of those not familiar with Nenette and Boni that the film was about this brother-sister relationship, where the girl was pregnant and gatecrashed into her brother's home. In her opinion Nenette and Boni was melodramatic, but very classily done, and quite poetic, although very little happened in the film.
Brian Gothong Tan's short was commissioned by the BlackBerry Digital Cinema 2009 as a showpiece for their new Asian short film initiative and competition, where the requirements are simple - No longer than 5 minutes based on the theme "The Future of Communications", and black and white with a splash of colour. BlackBerry had approached Brian with 10K to do anything he wants to for the short, and Sex, Trauma & Violence was the outcome, having wanted to work with all the actors featured.
As for Eric's film, it was made when he was still in film school, and the version was edited from footage shot for his thesis project. All audio was done in foley, and the music was an experiment in itself, having wanted to try out using Chinese instruments and Teochew opera.