Singapore Wave [in UK]
The first “Singapore Wave”, a showcase of works from emerging young Singaporean filmmakers, was presented by the Singapore Creative Network UK in London on 3 August 2007.
Curated by Boo Junfeng, Singapore Wave explored “life in the sunny city-state and offers fascinating insight into the recent resurgence of Singapore Cinema”.
The free event in London drew healthy interest, particularly from Singaporeans who wished to keep abreast with the latest in the local film scene. Chris Yeo, a student at the New York Film Academy in London and a freelance writer, attended the event in London and reviewed the 7 short films screened.
Bedroom Dancing (Sun Koh/18’/Mandarin with English subtitles)
Billed as “sexually explicit” and a film that examines “exhibitionism, voyeurism and society”, this movie is based on a real story of a man arrested for masturbating in his own home in Singapore. Bedroom Dancing featured a good number of explicit sex scenes which bordered on hardcore porn, with its tight camera angles.
The antagonist of the story was a lonely career woman who spent her time looking at the couple, but due to the awkward point-of-view, it was easy to confuse the antagonist with the protagonist’s girlfriend because there wasn’t a clear view of her face. Though it seemed like the director meant the film to give a voyeuristic vibe, I’d suggest a different camera angle and point-of-view. Perhaps more focus should be given to the voyeur to lend more depth to the story, instead of just showing us the man washing himself in the bathroom and jerking off in front of the window.
It also didn’t help that the acting was wooden and plot-lines were thin and developed insufficiently. All in all it was a vague and mind-numbing film that was potentially misleading and didn’t begin properly, or show any acting chemistry until the very last minute.
Hock Hiap Leong (Royston Tan/Musical/6’/Mandarin with English subtitles)
In contrast to Bedroom Dancing, this was a nice, sweet short film narrated using voiceovers which told the relationship between the narrator and the kopitiam he frequented before it was demolished to make way for future developments.
Filmed in a coffee shop set in its heyday with psychedelic colours of the past, the film was paired with nostalgic music and special post-production and colour grading procedures to achieve the 60’s feel. I only wished I could see more of the story Ã¢â‚¬” perhaps the main character was imagining how it would have been like or had memories tying him down to the place. An older main character might have worked better, since it was hard to imagine a young man having memories of the coffeeshop from 30 odd years ago. Perhaps shooting in black and white for the flashback scenes would have worked better to produce a more melancholic feel.
Innocent (Gek Li San & Ho Choon Hiong/Documentary/26’/Mandarin, English & Teochew with English subtitles)
Innocent is a film which chronicled a family tragedy and explored the living’s feelings towards an unwarranted death. While the film fulfilled the feelings of depression and is disturbingly morbid, it was also, unfortunately, painfully boring. More questions were raised than answered – especially about the state of the family.
The husband and victim slept in separate beds; their children were afraid of their father. The victim sought nightly solace from her children, and the family was all in all, in an unhappy marriage with financial problems. These were enough points to hint that the incident was what pushed the victim to finally end her life. But painful as that was, it was more painful to watch as the film dragged past the 10 to 15 minute mark, where it should have ended.
Also, more respect should have been paid to the deceased Ã¢â‚¬” showing her cremated skull was definitely in bad taste. Additionally, the production values were also shoddy Ã¢â‚¬” certain scenes were painfully underexposed, filmed using the wrong settings, and there was too much bounce in the handheld sequences.
G-23 (Anthony Chen/Drama/19’/Mandarin, English & Tamil with English subtitles)
Shrouded in shadows, moody acting and camera work coupled with characters interacting with minimal dialogue and an abundance of movement shots lend a Wong Kar-Wai feel to this movie. G-23 tells the tales of three city-dwellers, a young Indian girl, a middle-aged woman and a ticket tearer, are intertwined at the local Indian cinema through the narration of the ticket-tearer.
Alongside the obvious product placements in the film, the indian girl’s story line proved to be the weakest link in this otherwise strong film. It had a different lighting and feel compared to the way the rest of the film was shot and acted – too quick, too rushed, with not enough ‘mood’ in the camera movements. Also, unlike the other characters, her role regressed rather than advanced the progress of the film. It also seemed like there wasn’t enough material to edit with for that section, leaving a feeling that something was missing as the actress didn’t elicit sympathy from me. I would be interested in watching G-23 again, but with all of her sections edited out. Despite that, the film carried with its excellent editing, post production and colour grading.
Asian Girls 2: Memoirs of a Geisha (Brian Gothong Tan/Comedy/4’/English)
Described as portraying kimono-clad drag queens subverting and exploring gender, cultural stereotypes and sexuality, this is a satire that those who have seen both Memoirs of a Geisha and ‘Visit Malaysia, Truly Asia’ might recognize as a friendly poke at Malaysia. It’s short, funny and enjoyable.
Untitled (Loo Zihan & Kan Lume/Drama/5’/No Dialogue)
A short story about homosexuality that’s told from a distance, just like in real life, where few dare to broach the topic. Desires for something forbidden leads the protagonist down the path to eventual realisation of regret and innocence lost. It’s shot well with static images, almost as if depicting the public’s set stance against the topic.
Un Retrato De Familia (Boo Junfeng/Drama/8’/Spanish)
Un Retrato De Familia is a film that is provocative in its message about sexuality and growing up. A teenage boy growing up is asked the meaning of sex by his younger sister which leads him to recall his own memories of his own experience of the event. It is the only film in Singapore Wave that featured a foreign cast and location, which made it refreshingly different. Good lighting and camera work propelled the story along, which in itself was an interesting portrayal of how the simplest questions are misinterpreted.
Hints of the eventual outcome was dropped as the film unfold, and it was adventurous in its flirtation with letting the cat out of the bag. Overall, I believe the film works.