GENERAL COMMENTARY

A Treasure Trove of Southeast Asian Shorts – Five Picks From the Objectifs Film Library

18 May 2020

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A Treasure Trove of Southeast Asian Shorts – Five Picks From the Objectifs Film Library

In April, local non-profit art space Objectifs launched the Objectifs Film Library, a treasure trove of award-winning short films from Southeast Asia. 

The initiative aims to be an educational and research resource for film lovers in Singapore and around the world, while bringing attention to the importance of the short film medium and stories from the region. Most of the film rental fees will go towards supporting Southeast Asian filmmakers and their work.

To commemorate the launch of the platform, Objectifs also launched the Objectifs Film Club. Its first featured local filmmaker Kirsten Tan and actor Oon Shu An, discussing topics surrounding Kirsten’s short Come, a coming-of-age sex comedy released in 2007. 

The next session on 21 May will feature animation filmmaker Tai Wei Keong and Resident Playwright of WILD RICE Alfian Sa’at. As the topics of discussion will be surrounding Wei Keong’s The Great Escape, the short film is now available to watch for free on the Objectifs Film Library platform till 21 May. Find out more about the event from its Facebook page.

Looking to both explore the often underappreciated world of Southeast Asian short films (and to support its filmmakers), we dived into the Objectifs Film Library to uncover film shorts to check out. For film rentals as low as USD$1.50, it was a steal.


You Idiot (2018)

(Image credit: Momo Pictures)

Director: Kris Ong
Country: Singapore
Cast: Adam Jared Lee, Darren Cheng 
Runtime: 11 minutes

Detailing a night out between two friends, You Idiot is a sweet, comfortable short that captures the fleeting happiness of youth. The freewheeling duo – played by local musicians Adam and Darren – are affable and charming with their boyish quirks as they meander through the streets. Being non-actors and off-screen friends also created a tender and genuine dynamic that would definitely tap into familiar memories of friendship. 

Amidst the isolation of the circuit breaker, the short is coincidentally perfect for the context. The time spent with friends, and the silliness that inadvertently comes out of it are all sorely missed, and You Idiot successfully captures – even if it’s only for a while – the moments built on connections that are bound to last a lifetime. 

Catch the short here.

Check out our 100 Seconds On The Episode interview featuring Director Kris Ong here!

The Dog’s Lullaby (2015)

(Image credit: Makbul Mubarak)

Director: Makbul Mubarak
Country: Indonesia
Cast: Famisa Yusuk, Rofiqoh Nur Ashriany
Runtime: 10 minutes

The short opens with the ticking of a clock, and a woman slapping herself a little off its tempo. Faced with the threat of eviction, it is on this bizarre note where The Dog’s Lullaby explores a couple’s surreal and sensual attempts at finding a way out of their predicament. 

A lot about the award-winning short was lost on me. Its synopsis suggests the couple flirting with a mysterious power to grant their wishes at the expense of something greater. Yet, I felt that this unfortunately has been lost in translation for me. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the process of looking to figure the short out amidst its bizarre setting and shots, with its touching ending suggesting that the couple’s efforts may have been all for naught.

Catch the short here.

Dindo (2014)

(Image credit: Mowelfund Film Institute)

Director: Martika Ramirez Escobar
Country: Phillippines
Cast: Zachary Ezekiel, Alchris Galura, Buboy Dinapo, Snooky Serna
Runtime: 14 minutes

Dindo is a quirky short about a son reconnecting with his father through the medium of film. In the halcyon days of his childhood, Dindo spends most of his time holed up in his father’s studio as he tirelessly snips and edits endless rolls of film. An older Dindo revists the studio after his father’s passing, and looks to find peace within his work. 

Despite its lively colours and upbeat soundtrack, the short explores heavy themes. The film Dindo chances upon springs to life as it seemingly replays his longing for a parent in his childhood. Its characters cheekily break the fourth wall and ask Dindo about missing scenes of familial reconciliation ‘cut’ from the film.  With an interesting premise and a delightful cast, Dindo is a heartwarming reminder of the importance of not sacrificing the future for the present.

Catch the short here.

Zachary Ezekiel, playing a younger Dindo in the short, makes a standout performance with his adorable naivety. Check out another performance of his in the equally charming short Where’s Grandpa Mê?

Expired (2008)

(Image credit: Davy Chou)

Director: Davy Chou
Country: Cambodia
Runtime: 10 minutes

A half-remembered urban legend pieced together by employees of a drinks store sets the stage for this experimental Cambodian short. French-Cambodian Director Davy Chou shot Expired on his first trip to Cambodia, and this may explain the short’s deep sense of voyeurism. With uncomfortable silences and fly-on-the-wall style camera work, it feels like it was made by a stranger in his own country, peering into his home as a tourist.

Being an experimental film, Expired is not an easy recommendation. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating look at Cambodia, its people, and how cultures intertwine with tourism. 

Catch the short here.

Highway (2015)

(Image credit: Aw See Wee)

Director: Aw See Wee
Country: Malaysia
Cast: Mandy Chong, Lim Si Jie
Runtime: 12 minutes

A mother and son find themselves stuck in a traffic jam while budding heads over what is best for his future. Highway imagines all-too-familiar family scenes within the context of a quiet yet tumultuous world surrounded by a thousand more strangers perhaps engaged in the same conversations, all plunging into the unknown haze awaiting them. 

The short is clean and straight to the point. The nightmarish process of timing and shooting within a traffic jam at the last gaps of sunlight pays off with its excellent use of the setting and engaging performance. Making no qualms in highlighting the flaws of each character, Highway may be packed with allegories but its central message of familial care and support – particularly within Asian families – shines through to deliver a moving short.

Check out the short here.

To further support Objectifs, consider making a donation through this link.


Read more:
Sometimes Surreal, Always Captivating – How Asian Films Fare When Remaking and Adapting Western Stories
An Abridged Initiation to the World of ‘Mainhouse’ Films
An Abridged Initiation to Modern South Korean Cinema

There's nothing Matt loves more than "so bad, they're good" movies. Except browsing through crates of vinyl records. And Mexican food.
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