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A Film Festival First-Timer’s Take On SeaShorts Film Festival 2020

22 September 2020

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A Film Festival First-Timer’s Take On SeaShorts Film Festival 2020

With the end of the SeaShorts Film Festival, I thought I would give my opinion on the festival as a first-time goer.

The thing is, it’s not like the idea of attending a film festival hadn’t seemed interesting in the past. I do love movies and films of all kinds, yet somehow film festivals always seemed esoteric and inaccessible to the general audience.

Previously I had been dragged along to a screening at a festival years ago but left more confused than anything. The impression it left wasn’t an amazing one and that was the day where I decided film festivals were not for me, especially without any formal education or deep emotional investment in film.

So flash forward to 2020 and here I am, ready to give this another try.

Due to COVID-19, the SeaShorts Film Festival had to be moved online together with its various programmes and screenings. While this obviously isn’t how film festivals are usually held, it’s 2020 and we adapt.

Image credit: SeaShorts Film Festival

I think one appealing aspect about having an online film festival is definitely being able to watch everything from the comfort (and safety) of home. While not being able to discuss films with other festival goers offline seems like a downside, it definitely makes the experience less socially stressful as a festival newbie. The pressure to understand or enjoy a film isn’t there and that definitely helps. And it’s fine to not understand, because ultimately each person has their own likes and dislikes.

That is not to say there weren’t opportunities to discuss the films. One of the initiatives by this year’s SeaShorts team was the creation of a Discord group, which served as the festival’s main site for discussion with likeminded people. There was an attempt to emulate the offline experience of being at a film festival online as well, with a whole slew of masterclasses, forums and post-screening Q&As hosted on the festival’s Facebook page.

The SeaShorts Film Festival, as the name suggests, is mainly a festival for short films. As a film festival novice, I think that short films are more accessible as it doesn’t require trying to follow a convoluted story for two hours or so. Instead they are short, compact and easy to watch, which definitely helped engage my mildly attention-deficit brain.

Overall, it was a very interesting experience, I managed to catch quite a few of the short films and some really resonated with me.

I found myself drawn to the films that told a story rather than ones that focuses on stylistic visuals and the aesthetic. Some of them also didn’t have outright endings, ending off on ambiguous notes. I enjoyed the open-ended nature of these because it felt like I could envision my own happy or tragic endings.

Image credit: SeaShorts Film Festival

While there are some films that I would describe more as ‘arthouse’, others were definitely accessible and would appeal to mainstream audiences. The most accessible film to me would be The Slums. It is also my personal favourite, being a fun, quirky watch that uses the mockumentary format to satirise our expectation of the people in developing countries. Feeling reminiscent of The Office or Modern Family, it wasn’t something I would expect from a film festival and was a pleasant surprise.

Another film I thought was very well done is The Cloud is Still There. Needless to say, familial relations are complicated, if you add religion to the mix, things just get more tricky. The film does well to capture this dynamic. While watching this film, I was very impressed with the nuances to the award-winning performances as well as the way they explore such controversial subject matter.

Image credit: SeaShorts Film Festival

With the films focusing on Southeast Asia, it was also much more accessible with a cultural context I am familiar with which definitely made it easier to understand the motivations of characters. At the same time, this also imbued on the films a unique and culturally rich tone. 

However, as mentioned earlier, sometimes there would be films that you don’t understand or enjoy. For me, this was Night Horse. Created using CCTV footage spliced together and footage of a horse, it is truly a strange watch. While personally I did not think much of it, I admit that the concept is very interesting but to me it just didn’t seem to be about anything. 

Image credit: SeaShorts Film Festival

Night Horse aside, I think overall film festivals are a mixed bag. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to truly enjoy everything shown. It also definitely is not universal, what some may love, you may not and that’s just personal taste. I think as a whole it was an enjoyable experience. There were definitely some gems, just as there would be films that I didn’t particularly love. I would urge you to watch these films on your own and make your own decisions.

In any case, I think that the experience was positive and much better than the previous one. Does this give me the courage to attend another film festival? Maybe. But the best part is that now the answer is not a definite no.

While SeaShorts may be over and you may regret missing it, fret not, keep an eye out for the Facebook page for potential screenings. Head over to our Instagram to keep updated on any news and check out our website for more information. If you’re itching to get involved, consider joining the SeaShort Film Society to get connected to a growing community of passionate filmmakers.


Read more:
An Interview with Lim Wei Jie, Programming Director of SeaShorts Film Festival 2020
Bringing a Film Festival Online in the Pandemic Era – An Interview With Nicholas Chee, Festival Co-Director of SeaShorts Film Festival 2020
Staff Picks: SeaShorts Film Festival 2020

An avid reader and movie watcher struggling to balance a love for life with inherent existential nihilism.