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The Torch

Mathias Ortmann’s perspectives from Germany

You want to craft something, do you not? So practice and develop your craft first. Survival for the filmmaker is conditioned by the fact that film is an industry. Which doesn’t exclude art from happening; art as the true and free expression of self will always originate on its own accord with anyone who struggles and aspires to a better self.

You might have missed it, but one notable entry from Singapore made it into the 66th Venice Film Festival earlier this month: the medium length film Earth by visual artist/director Ho Tzu Nyen, which premiered on September 5th as part of the Corto Cortissimo section.

In 2008, SIFF successfully introduced a new section to its programming, called Singapore Panorama. That year, local film production was at a peak and there really was a lot to show. Going into its second year, the test was now whether there is enough substance to justify such special selection, or whether it amounts to little more than filling. Since numbers aren’t too important and short film making is well alive in Singapore by good tradition, to throw in more shorts in two out-of-competition packages seemed an obvious enough choice. Here is an evaluation of the second bonus programme: Panorama …

Screening at SIFF under the Singapore Panorama section this year was another politically aware documentary feature called “Brother No.2” by Jason Lai. In well-established, almost plain, fashion, this 75 minutes long film tries to lessen the distance we feel when facing the unimaginable – in this case the abysmal horrors of the Khmer Rouge terror regime and its many unreconciled victims.

It opens on a black screen and to traffic noise. A man returns home from work, sits down to read the newspaper and observes a crack in the ceiling. The television newscast reports the same as he has just read so he gets up and strangles his wife in the kitchen. Please make up your mind quickly whether this makes any sense to you or not, then watch HERE.

Are you feeling blue? Depressed? Or is it rather black-and-white, with a little more contrast to show? The latter in any case is what you will be treated to in Looi Wan Ping’s directorial debut, White Days, which screened at SIFF just recently. But don’t jump to conclusions too quickly about what to expect from this picture. If anything, it is strictly formula-defying. Not in a spectacular way, but laid-back and conveniently unpolished.