Sunday, August 23, 2009

[6th Singapore Short Cuts] Week 2 - 4th Session

The final session for this year's edition of Singapore Short Cuts saw one film being withdrawn from the festival, and one rescreened so that the teenage actor could watch it outside of its initial grouping with the R21 rated films on the first day. As for Ikan Langka (Rare Fish), well it got selected for the Pusan International Film Festival as Warren Sin, program manager at the National Museum Cinematheque explained, so best of luck!

The Story of I
Dir: Syarah Mahmood and Team
2009 | 4:05 min | No dialogue | PG

This is one trippy ride following Little Red Riding Hood who got caught up in this inexplicable world, one which allows the animators to show off their vast range of techniques in one trippy ride. The narrative's nothing more than a vehicle that allows that, and seriously I think our local animators have a lot to give, from various works I've seen thus far. While our animated features just failed to engage, the short film scene is that saving grace that we're all not that bad nor far off from producing quality animated works. This is but the tip of the iceberg.

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.

The Hunters of Xuan Wu / 玄武猎人
Dir: Matthew Bowyer
2008 | 6 min | English | PG

I laughed when the actors came on screen. No, it's not because they were looking funny, because they are acquaintances and friends of friends and have seen them acting on stage, and I was gladly surprised that they have key roles to play in this action short directed by Matthew Bowyer. It's a simple tale that has plenty of technicalities poured in to bring out that movie magic of hunters versus a mythical beast, which you don't get to see a lot of in order to maintain that aura of mystique.

Presented in black and white and shot in and around the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, there were plenty of camera shots and angles here for that adrenaline junkie in you, and slick editing provided that illusion that the humans were up against something massive to be conquered. One of the more technically brilliant films in this year's edition to bring about that sense of excitement, and comes with plenty of running.

Dir: Jeremy Sing
2009 | 6 min | Mandarin with English subtitles | G

Commissioned by the Singapore Men's Chorus back in 2008, Jeremy Sing's Mi is a simple piece set in the 80s showing the relationship between a mother and her child, and how sometimes one's orders cannot totally block off the other's will, as seen with the radio and music that permeates from the outside. During the Q&A Jeremy had explained that this film was to lead onto the stage performance by the chorus, and hence did feel like an introduction to something larger.

Within this short film there were primarily two key scenes, which I thought the first one stood out really well, with some nuances about a non-proficient English speaker trying her best to coach her son in English, making mistakes but never shying away from it because, frankly, they're left up to their own devices to ensure he gets a proper education. The sets that he chose, such as the window grille, is distinctly 80s fashion, as with the social issues of latch key children with the mom leaving her son behind at home alone, to shop at People's Park (how retro!)

Dreaming Kester
Dir: Martin Hong Cho Ann
2009 | 14 min | English | PG

I suppose this is what an idealistic youth's nightmare about living in Singapore would look like, where he has to trade a once carefree life of limited concerns beyond self, to one that has to comply and conform in a monotonous, straight laced environment of work and responsibility. Martin's protagonist, a likely mirror of his own fears of pushing that entry into adulthood, shows us the relatively exaggerated lifestyles of a very structured Singapore, where he's trying his best to fight against the National Adultist Board, a group of unsmiling, emotionless bunch who wear nametags, and can't wait to assimilate wild passion into the collective whole.

Clearly with production values from a school video project, the first thoughts of it was that the introduction and plot element of having a narrator talk directly with Kester, resembled that from Stranger Than Fiction, where the character reacts with disdain and disbelief. The narrative follows Kester in his fight against growing up, and to hold on to his childish ideals alongside a sidekick robot, where credit has to go to the successfully and cheesily done camera tricks. It included a number of time and spatial travel elements, before settling on getting down to its point about the inevitable, where memories are but markers in the passage of time.


A short Q&A session followed the screenings, and today's session is moderated by Warren Sin, who's the National Museum Cinematheque's curator for its film programmes.

LtoR: Warren Sin, Martin Hong Cho Ann, , Jeremy Sing, Syarah Mahmood

Part 1 of 4

Part 2 of 4

Part 3 of 4

Part 4 of 4


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