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The Year of Male Thinking

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The Substation Moving Images’ Programme Manager Kristin Saw looks back at First Take 2006.

Sure, they were mostly by male directors, but amateur short films continue to delight us, even those that make us go “duh”. That’s right, folks — the local film industry is a male-dominated one, down to the amateur level. Try 38 male filmmakers out of the 34 short films screened at First Take 2006. Where are the girls?!

First Take 2006To be fair, there was one solo female filmmaker, and one who worked in a team of male directors. But that’s an oddly disproportionate showing for a programme that’s open to professional and amateur filmmakers alike. First Take is The Substation Moving Images’ monthly film screening of fresh material made by first-time filmmakers or amateur directors. Since 2004, it’s been the friendly space to watch future talent in the making, and a casual environment for banter and creative exchange between the filmmakers and the audience.

Curating First Take last year gave me numerous opportunities to dip into the minds and works of earnest newbies in the Singapore film scene, many of whom were students, NSmen, serial filmmaking competition participants and. yes, male. 2006 was yet another year of stand-up antics, sheepish exposés from a fresh crop of storytellers, and friendly audiences of course. As for the films, I’m inclined towards the thesis that the topics covered stemmed from a distinctively male mind: the Bleak and the Quirky.

The Bleak comprised dramatic pieces with undertones of affliction, nihilism, delusion and an overkill of thrillers-with-a-twist the likes of M. Night Shyamalan. Granted, some offered poignant perspectives on life, such as Matt Lim’s Ball Is Round, on football betting and life’s choices, and the shockingly credible portrayal of a young man attempting suicide, Scott The Martyr Lives Forever, acted and directed by Lachlan McLeod.

The bigger category was definitely the Quirky. From action-thriller spoofs (Brian L. Tan’s Blinded), life’s idiosyncrasies (Mark Song’s Substitute) and tickling moments (Jacky Lee’s SubTV), to stories told from the perspective of footwear (Low Beng Kheng’s Slipper Story) and an instructional video on the national anthem (Forgotten Merlion by Ghazi Alqudcy, Ezzam Rahman and Sazeli Jalal), this year saw an eclectic mix of light-hearted points of view.

The year’s audience-voted favourite was a pleasant surprise: the 3-minute short and sweet piece about a girl waking her brother up to celebrate his birthday, Waking Monkey by Chris Yeo Siew Hua (who also executed a wicked crime-thriller spoof, Cotton ‘N Candy, with bunny suit and gun in tow). Perhaps filmmakers (and guys) can try Chris’s approach by showing a softer side? It definitely worked its magic!

What will 2007 bring? More films by female filmmakers, I hope … But the gender gap notwithstanding, one always looks forward to a greater variety of stories and styles from new voices in the field. Let’s not forget that many filmmakers whose works were screened previously at First Take moved on to win awards at festivals in Singapore and around the world.

Here’s wishing all our First Take alumni many more opportunities, and to all budding talents: keep them coming!

First Take resumes on 5 February 2007, and happens every first Monday of the month at 8 pm at The Substation Theatre. Visit The Substation website for screening schedules and submission information.

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