Saturday, August 05, 2006

[3rd Singapore Short Cuts] 3rd Week

This week's selection presents a blast from the past, and the most obvious thing that strikes you when you sit through all 4 shorts, is how much technology has advanced, and how much sophisticated short film makers have become. The look of the film might be dated, the sound quality found wanting, but in the rawness of the shorts, you can feel the enthusiasm and the difficulties that the filmmakers faced back then in having these shorts made.

Absence - K Rajagopal
This short explores how a mother and son cope with the loss of their husband/dad. While one mopes, the other chooses to clam up and channel his feelings into art - be it sketching navels, or in paintings. It's beautifully shot - I liked the rain/dance sequence, and it ends off with one heck of a surprise which throws what your perception is of certain characters out of the window.

Datura - Abdul Nizam
I like the bomoh scene, for some strange reason I cannot put a finger too. I don't sit through well with experimental shorts, and I couldn't enjoy this one. I suppose there's also a motive to having an English voiceover running concurrent with the Malay/Arab language track. Perhaps I'm really missing something out here.

Ragged - Nisar and Nazir Husain Keshvani
The much maligned Karang Guni Man stars as the local version of the bogeymen, used to frighten misbehaving children into submission (or at least back in the good old days. A substitute will be the Policeman). But what's life behind the stereotype? This short gives us a fictional account on the life, love and loss of one such fellow.

Sense of Home - Lim Suat Yen
I don't dig the storyline, but I do dig the visuals. Some of the places caught on the camera, I think do not exist anymore, or exist in a different form. The director was brave enough too to cast herself as the lead though.

LtoR: Wenjie, Nizam, Rajagopal, Nazir, Suat Yen, Kristin

I didn't manage to cover the entire Q&A Session cos there was someone special amongst the audience today, and my friends and I wanted to chit-chat with her. So my apologies if the writeup below seemed to end abruptly. If you have attended it in full, please feel free to finish it using the comments box. Also, this is transcribed as best as I could, any inaccuracies are my fault alone.

Q: When was the last time you saw your short?
A (Datura): A few years ago, and when I saw it again, "shit!". This was a final year school project, and there were some things which I wished I had done differently, as I was still looking for identity and direction.
A (Absence): Saw it on television couple of years back on Arts Central. This was my 3rd film, and I was making short films to win a "Best Film" prize but didn't make it. It's a personal film and in my films I put in whatever issues that bothered me.
A (Ragged): 10 years back. It's lo-fi quality as there was no film school back then, and it's just embarassing just to see it again.
A (Home): 12 years ago, until now.

Nizam then shared that he made films not to win prizes but to get finances for the next film. Suat Yen revealed that her short was made on 16mm and there was no budget for proper sound mixing, hence the synchronizing problem we observed.

Q: How much did it cost back then to make the shorts, and how was the prize money used?
A (Datura): Most of the post production was done in school, and the prize money that this short won barely covered half the cost.
A (Absence): The cost was S$15K and the prize money was S$5K. Had no regrets as it was worth a try.
A (Ragged): Can't put a cost down because it was done with help from friends. You can't put a value on the time we spent using a post production studio after midnight. The prize money was spent on dinner for the people involved in the production, as well as to buy a camera to make more films.
A (Home): Spent S$100-200 on transportation and food for a 3-men crew, and had to "beg, borrow, or steal" the camera. The prize money was used to do a feature film - The Road Less Travelled.

Q (Datura): Could you share with us the identity you mentioned you were looking for?
A: I was looking if I could make films relevant here and elsewhere. I was looking for and asking questions to know what kinds of films I want to make. It's been 10 years down the line and I'm still looking for it.

Damn confusing Question: about being disturbed when watching Sense of Home, about the simplification of the east-west binary (wah)
A: It was made 16 years ago, and the perspective I had then was different from now. It's part of me in the past (For those who didn't realize, Suat Yet was playing the lead character)
Dunno why, but Suat Yen was apologetic if her short made the person who asked the question, feel disturbed.

Q (Absence): The cinematography was well done. Which portions about the short were based on personal experience?
A: I lost my dad when I was very young, and I was in denial for a whole year after he died. 10 years later I put into this film, issues I had about religion, death, god and sexuality, to get the skeletons out of the closet, to get it out of the system.

Q: What are you doing now, and any film plans in the future?
A (Home): I've started Oak3, and am still very much in the film industry.
A (Ragged): I'm in the publishing industry and am doing some freelancing as well as editorial work. I've a closet full of proposals and ideas, but budget is the main problem.
A (Absence): I'm teaching. I did telemovies, documentaries, music videos, and am not in a hurry to do a feature film, just waiting for the right time.
A (Datura): I'm still making films, and I did a documentary with Nazir. I'm also doing TV work, and have spent the last few years trying to get something off the ground.

Q: Do you feel it is easier now than back then when you made your films?
A (Datura): It's easier in terms of technology, given the PC environment. Technology is kind, but it's the same issues about trying to convince people to fund the fims you want to do.

Q to Organizers: How do you think the films have aged?
Wenjie: Although the films were from the 90s, there are quite a lot that we can learn from them. These four films were selected for its sense of home in Singapore.
Kristin: One obvious significant change is the use of technology, and the quality that comes through technology. However, these films selected are strong in expressing one's identity.

Q (Ragged): Why the use of the Karang Guni Man for your film?
A: My mum was always using the Karang Guni man to scare my brother and I, and the depiction of the Karang Guni man was as I remembered as a child, with the gunny sack. Nowadays they no longer ask for old newspapers but old TV sets. These are people on the margins of society whom we don't see anymore. We originally got someone else around the same age as us, casted as the Karang Guni Man, but during the post production, the person who owns the post production studio we went to, commented "Is that the best? I can do a better job", and so he became the Karang Guni Man in the film.


Next week's selection will be da bomb, as we have shorts from at least two prolific local directors - Kan Lume and Eric Khoo, with the latter having his short commissioned by Jeonju International Film Festival, screened. Also got Pontianak, you know? Boo!

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