Tuesday, May 24, 2011

AVANT Premiere! 6 Thesis Films From The Puttnam School of Film

This evening marked industry premiere screening of six BA(Hons) Thesis Films from The Puttnam School of Film, LASALLE, featuring Wild Dogs, Strings, The Red Veil, Window of Dreams, Hentak Kaki and Blue Tide《暖潮》 made by its Class of 2011 graduates. Into its second batch of graduates already, I suppose anyone mildly interested in sniffing out new creative talent amongst the local film community should seriously look at the output from the schools, because each of these six films do not betray the notion that they're done by film students, rather, they're made by up and coming filmmakers who have honed their craftsmanship in multi-disciplines, as each of the graduates possess both a major and a minor in their course of study, and are heavily involved in the production of each of the shorts screened today in different capacities, and shouldering responsibilities.

We've probably reached a stage now where one cannot get away with an amateurish production and effort, since what we do see are extremely well made shorts with a keen sense of storytelling, and indeed the bar has been set much higher with each passing batch. All of these of course bodes very well in deepening our talent pool, and hopefully we will get to see more vibrant local films in time to come real soon.

Running Time: 15 minutes
Producer: Luo Min
Director/ Editor: Saravanan Sam
Director of Photography: Sven Stefanovic
Sound Recordist: Anwar Wu
Assistant Director: Sampada Harkara

Featuring documentaries for the first time the School's showcase, this documentary epitomizes the mantra of No Music No Life of busker David "Ringo" Regu, a man missing his front teeth, but still possessing a mean streak of a spirit in picking up his guitar, and busking along underpasses, pubs and coffeeshops even, to eke out a living on the streets.

From Oasis' Wonderwall to Mandarin songs, we learn more of the man who had made a conscious decision to live the life he is leading and the reconciliation of that choice with friends and family, in classic talking heads styled monologues, as well as some fleeting incidents highlighting the different attitudes toward busking in Singapore, primarily that of tourists versus locals, though I do think (and I may be wrong) that some aspects of it could have been staged, since locals are usually camera shy (what more making a documentary, we will run far far away).

Some nice cinematography opened the film, carried through by the strength of Ringo's personality.

Running Time: 13 minutes
Producer: Nooraini Shah Sikkander
Director/ Co- Writer: Surianti Sulaiman
Director of Photography: Najihah Abdul Rahim
Editor/ Audio Post: Anwar Wu
Screenwriter: Sim Li Jia

Continuing with the theme centered around music, this narrative feature tells of a boy whose individuality doesn't gel well with his school's band, much to the irritation of his music teacher. He finds solace and friendship with the school's cleaner, who engages the young lad to help in composing and finishing a song as a gift for his wife.

This encik becomes the real teacher who imparts life skills and knowledge to the student, but this short is unfortunately marred by acting that was a little off, and the irony of having the Uncle speak his lines with little emotion, when he's supposed to deliver a heartfelt speech about feelings, a key ingredient in communication through music. Thankfully one gets treated to a fusion of sounds as a finale that came a little out of the blue.

Running Time: 11 minutes
Writer: Sampada Harkara
Producer: Tarini Singh
Director/ Editor: Chua Seng Yew
Director of Photography: Alyza Adinegoro
Sound Recordist: Saravanan S.

It's most unfortunate that one of the things that stood out when The Red Veil is being introduced happened to be a misspelling of "Commission" as "Commision", which will in all likelihood be overlooked as the film is bookend by pulsating, trance inducing drum beats as part of a very colourful wedding procession. It is the story of Netra (Devi Vijayan), a young Indian woman who through the course of the film, split into two separate and intertwining narrative threads, reminisces about a past she would desperately like to forget.

Roped to help in dolling up Mandira (Sonya Nair) who is constantly asking her a slew of questions in relation to the upbeat environment, we slowly discover Netra's yearning for a life she can never have nor hope to lead, with wonderful cinematography contrasting the vibrancy of festivities that surround the premise with the darkness that envelopes Netra's past. Strong visual language at play here to convey the emotional tussle felt by Netra, and extremely well acted by both female leads in their respective roles, especially Devi Vijayan whose shoulders the movie primarily sits on.

Running Time: 15 minutes
Director/ Producer/ Writer/ Editor - Nooraini Shah Sikkander
Co-Writer & Camera Assistant- Najihah Rahim
Director Of Photography- Fazrin Affendi
Sound Recordist - Alicia Lim
Assistant Sound Recordist - James Khoo
Post Sound - Alyza Kurnia Adinegoro
Production Manager - Mohammed Ibrahim Sulaiman
Gaffer- Anirudh
Production Assistant - Surianti Sulaiman, Mohammed Arshard
Publicity - Nelvi Suwandi
Music Composers - Lim Yi Benjamin

In recent weeks the topic of Foreign Talent, loosely used to group foreign workers (though normally white collared workers) came under intense scrutiny about how easy it is for those in power to throw the workers PR and work permit approvals, so much so that their numbers in our midst get boosted by the hundreds of thousands in so short a span in time, that our public infrastructure just cannot keep up, much to everyone's frustrations.

But when you strip apart statistics and grouped numbers, you'll find very human stories amongst the chaff and the noise, and it will make you think about how some do indeed fall through the cracks in a system that's deemed extremely generous. Mohammed Kassim is one of such persons, being unable to obtain PR status for the last 6 years, and is still continuing because he lauds Singapore's education system as being one of the best out there to provide his children a fighting chance in society. He dreams, like every parent, that his children will be successful, hence his persistence in trying to relocate here, to no avail.

A documentary that begin with a black and white fade to colour while shot from a moving train, this film details the tough road that Kassim undertakes from being covered with debts to the inconvenience of having to shuttle between countries, putting a strain within his family unit. Again the technical aspects of this film is extremely sound, but what stood out was the filmmaker's crafting from its subject some engaging content that looks at the micro level issues faced by those less fortunate willing to do all it takes to better their livelihood.

Running Time: 11 minutes
Writer/ Director: James Khoo
Producer: Tarini Singh
Director of Photography: Saravanan S.
Sound Recordist: Anwar Wu
Editor: Alicia Lim
Assistant Director: Sampada Harkara

There has to be an army story thrown in somewhere, and this was it. My personal favourite of the lot, and judging by the enthusiastic response when the end credits rolled, probably that of most in the audience as well, Hentak Kaki is the Malay term that is used to explain how one cannot progress any further in one's life, or career, and in the context of the film and character 2nd Warrant Officer Lee Teck Hong (Michael Chua), a severe injury meant his combat days are over, being reassigned by the military to become a counsellor at the Detention Barracks.

For a man of action, heavily medalled and proud to don the uniform of a the elite Guardsmen, this meant a condemnation of sorts in his tour of duty, as he carries out his new assignment with much frustration, especially since under his charge is Staff Sergeant Raj, held in the barracks for AWOL, and is a familiar figure in having shared a military past together.

There are many sweet spots that this film had hit. Firstly, the Singlish dialogue and the many army mannerisms and terminology that got thrown around. Editing was fantastic especially when required to cut between the characters as they argue in rapid fire exchanges in what would be my favourite scene in the film for its realism in utilizing army speak. But what takes the cake would be Michael Chua's performance, which again emphasizes just how important it is to have the right cast and lead, which will automatically be the battle half won since it makes it easy for an audience to identify and feel for the character. The chemistry he shared with P. Muruganandan was essentially key to making this short film work its magic.

It's wickedly funny yet poignant, speaking out to those of us who are afraid to step out of our comfort zone, and ended everything with quite a bang, finishing off strongly.

Running Time: 19 minutes
Producer/ Director: Luo Min
Director of Photography: Anirudh Ashok
Sound Recordist: James Khoo
Editor: Alyza Adinegoro
Screenwriter/ Co-Producer: Alicia Lim
Art Director: Yeo Ke Liang

This non-linear film is a mood piece that deals with the vanishing of what would be love, giving way to thoughts of betrayal and bewilderment, because two days prior to their wedding, Ly-Anne (Wendy Tan) gets arrested, leaving the groom-to-be, Victor (Wi Tze Kun) in the lurch as his dreams of a married life had the brakes suddenly put on. You know what to expect when a short film becomes a Mandarin (and a thickly accented one at that) atmospheric film trying to capture the look and feel of a typical art-house offering from Hong Kong or Taiwan, and what took the shine off this is the proclamation toward the end that this was "based on a true story", when there wasn't much of a tight narrative story to begin with, with a preference to keep things relatively vague, with slightly repetitive shots.


Those interested in catching the films above, as well as three additional films from the Diploma in Film graduates, can do so between 27 May and 9 June at Noon and 7pm daily at the LASALLE College of the Arts. Admission is free, and details can be found here.

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