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Zo Peng

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Written, produced and directed by Jacen Tan
Running time: 15 minutes
Released in 2005

In a nutshell
Three women talk about their experiences in National Service.

Zo PengThe English title of the film is translated as Confinement, but literally, zo peng means to “do army”.It’s amazing what you can do with one single camera angle on one single set. That and the fact that they managed to get women to start talking like men on a topic near and dear to the male Singaporean’s heart ,and you’ve pretty much got a winner.

Zo Peng works on a level that Clerks and the Before Sunrise/Sunset films worked: The filmmaker decided that if the characters were interesting enough, you don’t really need too much of anything going on. Allow them to interact and they will carry the show.

The three girls in the show are interesting enough and they certainly do carry the show. The single static camera shot with the multiple fades to indicate the change in time works well, and I was never bored despite the fact that the camera didn’t move once. The dialogue was familiar to me and it worked so well that it tugged at my memories with nostalgic threads.

There was potential for this to go further but I’m also glad that it didn’t go beyond that. With the scant 15 minutes, Jacen Tan’s made an amazingly tight film that allows us access into the characters thoughts and hints towards certain deeper issues. It’s an excellent textbook case of showing, not telling. And that’s rare. Usually films just throw it in your face. This film lets you figure it out yourself.

Watch Jacen Tan. There is definitely something good going on here.

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