Sunday, September 20, 2009

[9th Asian Film Symposium] S-Express: Singapore

We, The Real People of Singapore - Ghazi Alqudcy
2009 / 16min / RATINGS TBA

This is like a quintessential slice of life piece in Singapore, where a vignette of 6 short stories get compiled into one seamless tale thanks to editing, where the camera shifts its focus to new characters that come by way of the location the previous story had concluded. You'll probably find some pieces to identify with, from a jilted man, to the fat boy and the prejudice that he has to face on a daily basis, which was one of my favourites of the lot - simply because we tend to gossip behind people's back since we're assuming that they can't speak the language, but ha! Watch it because the youngsters these days are conversant in more than 2 languages.

Director Ghazi Alqudcy was also on hand after the screening to share how the stories got collated from a bit of a guerrilla tactic with flyers pointing out a blogsite to folks on the trains to contribute their personal stories to. Quite innovative in a way, where the submissions were scrutinized after a week to whittle the number down to those featured in this film.

National Day - He Shuming
2009 / 19min / RATINGS TBA

In some ways this short is somewhat similar to Anthony Chen's Ah Ma, where family members rally around each other, each having their own way in dealing with a death (or in Ah Ma's case, impending) in the family. He Shuming's short is set on the 7th day after the passing of a man (well, this plot element also used in Chai Yee-wei's Blood Ties), which happens to fall on National Day. With the entire nation celebrating the occasion and enjoying the public holiday, the story looks at bereavement in stark contrast against a celebratory environment, where streets are quiet and everyone glued to their goggle boxes to partake in the parade.

The strength of this short laid squarely on Shuming's characterization of the family, with a dialect (Hainanese?) speaking, nagging mom, and the children - the daughter and her own family, and her brother, an army boy who had managed to obtain those difficult-to-get parade tickets, as we learn them being his deceased father's favourite event. As the story wore on, each member had its own segment to highlight their personal grief amidst brave fronts they put up, or quiet ones such as those that they boy fell into. There were some additional religious observations within the family that got presented as well, with different members with different beliefs, quite contrary though very real on the state of affairs facing some families which served as a momentary distraction from the main intent.

It's still pretty amazing that this was a school project, though the audio at times did sound a little airy and distant, probably voiceovers on the original soundtrack. Nonetheless a nice effort and I'll be paying attention to He Shuming's works to see what more he can conjure up.

Kissing Faces - Wesley Leon Aroozoo
2009 / 11min / PG

Taken from my earlier review. The KTV Karaoke video still cracked me up again!

The opening shot was video-like as well, where we see an aged, balding man frolicking in a resort background with a young nubile female. They seem happy with each other's company, though of course this is engineered because it's a cheap, sleazy looking karaoke production. Which the film did perfectly well to mimic. But the narrative is nothing like the perfect world that exists within those videos, where the protagonist, a karaoke hostess, is pretty depressed enough to be mulling in deep thought over a ride down Singapore's red light district area of Geylang. Visually though, the shots are very diverse and had plenty of night time scenes where the streets are draped in neon, against very vivid memories of a childhood long bygone. The depressing monologue does get a little too indulgent after a while, where we learn of the hostess' search for an escape and a reboot of her life.

à la folie - Sanif Olek
2008 / 12min / RATINGS TBA
A Singapore premiere, the second part of Sanif Olek's LOVE trilogy sees an adaptation crafted from the classic Ramayana text, with the characters of Sinta, Arjuna and Rawana given a new, experimental spin on themes such as manipulation and revenge rolled into one simply put tale. The cast also played to their stereotypes wonderfully, and we can see how one being dumped would offer that second chance at getting back, if only a mission of sorts was fulfilled. The two transsexuals also provided plenty of humour by way of how jesters and comics come in to fill in the narrative gaps in-between scenes. I can't say that I'm an expert, but the animated film Sita Sings The Blues, which is also based on the Ramayana, had elements of the same.

Filmed in and around the area of the Sultan Mosque, Sanif had shared that this was shot without a script, but only a concept, so plenty of stuff in here were improvised. What more, the film was shot over a period of two nights, and he allowed for the film to gestate for almost one year (!) before going it to edit it into the form we've seen today.

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