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Presenting the 2021 Film School Graduate Productions: LASALLE College of the Arts12 min read

31 May 2021 8 min read


Presenting the 2021 Film School Graduate Productions: LASALLE College of the Arts12 min read

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Just as life was starting to feel normal again (as far as the pandemic could allow), heightened safe distancing measures meant that the AVANT Premiere, the graduating showcase of this year’s LASALLE College of the Arts’ BA(Hons) Film programme, had to be cancelled days before the event. 

After having the fortunate opportunity to watch these films, it seems clear that the urgency and direness of the pandemic never left the minds of these young filmmakers. All eleven short films orbit around themes of mortality — birth, life, death and the unknown beyond. These are heavy subjects that just about any storyteller could stumble with, but are handled with the utmost care by the graduating cohort. What resonates the most is the maturity in the narratives and the bravery to place themselves amidst life’s biggest unknowns. 

The cancellation of the AVANT Premiere gets all the more heartbreaking with the possibility that these films may never be showcased on the big screen. It’s outright criminal, especially for some of these films where the intricacies and sheer ambition in visual storytelling are astounding. Furthermore, it’s noteworthy that the films were created amidst the pandemic and under meticulous safety guidelines. 

We might not be able to see their graduating films on the big screen any time soon but it seems certain that it will take a lot more than the pandemic to deny these filmmakers and their subsequent works from the well-deserved spotlight in the near future. 

Alighting For Lola

Lola Chong, a 16-year-old girl from Malaysia, is coerced by her family to work at a bus company in order to earn money. Torn between supporting her family and pursuing her studies, Lola is further challenged by a series of events at the bus company that forces her to question her morality and agency.

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Kaizerin L. Tanzil
Producer: Laurelle Theo
Screenwriter: Kimberly Lium
Production Designer: Wong Wen Hui
Director of Photography: Angeline Hendrata
Editor: Randey Ng
Sound Recordist: Muzzafar Muhar
Audio Post: Nabillah Hamidah

Innocence and vulnerability are challenged in the beautifully shot period drama Alighting for Lola. While the short weaves an intricate tale of self-discovery, rebellion and camaraderie, the emotional resonance of these beats is slightly muted by the subtle approach, revealing plot points through somewhat overly-tangled means. However, these do not take away from Alighting From Lola’s strong visual storytelling, with the warmth of its time period converging well with the short’s sensitive coming-of-age story.

Antara Suria Dan Purnama

Synopsis: Set in the late 1970s, the film follows a mother who struggles to hide her autistic daughter so that her husband can become the religious leader of the village.

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Ang Zheng Xiang
Producer: Sera Joy Wee
Screenwriter: Mindy Chin
Production Designer: Kavitha Manimaran
Director of Photography: Kimberly Lium
Editor: Batrisyia Hazrin
Sound Recordist: Florent Corchia
Audio Post: Laurelle Theo

The family drama features compelling performances from the leads that detail the struggles of a woman torn between her role as a wife and a mother. Sepia tones, sharp lighting choices and clear attention to production design bring out the weight of the time period. Antara Suria Dan Purnama presents and handles difficult dilemmas throughout, eventually boiling into an emotional high point that pulls at the heartstrings.

Gone are the Moat and the Walls

Synopsis: Upon receiving dreams from the City God, Zhang returns to Singapore after 20 years to look for the last remaining survivor of his puppet troupe. In his search, Zhang discovers a Singapore he does not recognise. 

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Joshuah Lim En
Producer: Nabillah Hamidah
Screenwriter: Jit Jenn Tan
Production Designer: Dionne Goh
Director of Photography: Randey Ng
Editor: Clyde Kam
Sound Recordist: Lim Xiang Yin
Audio Post: Florent Corchia

Fantastic. Gone are the Moat and the Walls is a phenomenal short film. So rare is camera movement used as a storytelling medium and rarer still is the flair and vision required to use it well. The short film knocks it out of the park with its stellar cinematography, transforming modern Singapore into a spiritual wasteland far beyond salvation. Its hypnotising narrative only adds to the short’s awe. Gone are the Moat and the Walls is both inspired and inspiring. 

Home Planet

Synopsis: An astronaut is faced with a difficult decision after the death of his only older brother. Stay home or chase his dreams?

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Maximilian Liang
Producer: Tasha Budiman
Screenwriter: Oscar Larrea
Production Designer: Angeline Hendrata
Director of Photography: Jamie Issac Tham
Editor: Mindy Chin
Sound Recordist: Muzzafar Muhar
Audio Post: Wong Wen Hui

Home Planet is an immensely atmospheric arthouse entry soaked in gorgeous black and white. The soft monotones allow evocative lighting to take centre stage, enveloping and illuminating the deep-rooted emotions characters look to hide from one another. These, coupled with the soothing sounds of nature, make Home Planet a contemplative sensory treat that is clearly uncompromising about the aesthetic vision the team set for themselves.


Synopsis: Set in 1943, Okusan is centred on Mei Na, a pregnant comfort woman who plans her escape from the comfort home but gets confronted by the father of her unborn child – a Japanese soldier.

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Syaza Agape
Producer: Sera Joy Wee
Screenwriter: Marcus Lee
Production Designer: Oscar Larrea
Director of Photography: May Chong Xue Ning
Editor: Angeline Hendrata
Sound Recordist: Nabillah Hamidah
Audio Post: Wong Wen Hui

In terms of themes, Okusan is perhaps the bleakest out of the cohort. Constantly hanging above the drama is an unshakable sense of dread, made all the more potent with the hopelessness exuded by Kelly Choo’s leading performance. Highlights of the short include the sharp production design and wardrobe choices in bringing out the arid desperation during the dark chapter of our history. Okusan goes to really grim places, constantly ramping up the tension while remaining ever-gripping in its storytelling.

依依 (Time Flows in Strange Ways on Sundays)

Synopsis: A mother, trapped in the comfort of memory and mourning, confronts her grief when she is invited to the wedding of her late son’s childhood lover. 

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Giselle Lin
Producer: Tasha Budiman
Screenwriter: Lim Xiang Yin
Production Designer: Niesa Marie Luib
Director of Photography: Clyde Kam
Editor: Dionne Goh
Sound Recordist: Laurelle Theo
Audio Post: Lim Xiang Yin

Time Flows in Strange Ways on Sundays moves at a gentle and patient pace, bringing out the depths of a mother’s sorrow through excellent cinematography. The drama has the rhythm of theatre. Each intricately crafted frame sets the stage for leads Iris Li, Wendy Toh and Peter Yu to present affecting performances. The emphasis on visuals, however, does lead to hints of melodrama, especially with conversations happening in locations that are seemingly more aesthetics-centric than story-driven. Still, the softness found amongst the short’s alluring presentation is undeniably mesmerising, with its enrapturing emotional intensity sticking around long after the short tale concludes. 

The German Girl

Synopsis: A mockumentary that showcases the friendship and adventures of a trio of young misfits. Deemed as failures by their family and peers, they embark on a comedic and light-hearted journey to Pulau Ubin in search of the infamously haunted 100-year-old German Girl Shrine.

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Aastik Bhasin
Producer: Aastik Bhasin
Director of Photography: Florent Corchia
Editor: Gauraangi Chopra

The cast and crew must have been having fun while filming The German Girl — because the joy is rather infectious. The mockumentary brims with youthful enthusiasm, with the three leading roles played so well that it’s impossible to discern if they are in character. This pays off in spades. The short is never condescending and wholeheartedly embraces the follies of youth; the joy of seeing every day as potentially a life-changing adventure (as overdramatic as the lessons learnt can be). While The German Girl does feel like it could have been trimmed down, it remains a hearty watch packed with well-needed laughs in the face of death. 

The Paramedic

Synopsis: Mr Hasnon is a paramedic, riding in ambulances and attending emergency calls as part of the Singapore Civil Defence Force for the past 22 years. The film traces his journey from a non-medical background to becoming a knowledgeable paramedic who has saved multiple lives. 

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Yap Cai Fa
Producer: Yap Cai Fa
Director of Photography: Yap Cai Fa
Editor: Yap Cai Fa
Sound Recordist: Yap Cai Fa
Audio Post: Yap Cai Fa

The Paramedic is a straightforward slice-of-life of a seasoned paramedic. The documentary largely allows the interviewee to guide the story, regaling his journey on how he became a paramedic and the challenges he faced throughout the years. A sense of groundedness shines through, with Mr Hasnon showcasing his passion for his job while being disarmingly frank about his personal life.

Wallflowers in the Parade

Synopsis: With the banning of the religion in 1972, male Jehovah’s Witnesses are made to spend their National Service in the detention barracks for two and a half years or longer. This documentary follows the lives of three male Jehovah’s Witnesses and their lives in Singapore as well as the first Witness who was imprisoned in 1972.

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Jit Jenn Tan
Producer: Julia Aziz
Director of Photography: Muzzafar Muhar
Editor: Syaza Agape
Sound Recordist: May Chong Xue Ning
Audio Post: Florent Corchia

Combining documentary filmmaking with hints of narrative storytelling, Wallflowers in the Parade presents a humanising look at an often-stigmatised community in Singapore. It seems like a tremendous task but the difficulty only melts away with the interviewees’ vulnerability and religious conviction. The documentary does not look to be objective, which unfortunately does cause the handling of the topic to near martyrdom. 

Perhaps most striking about Wallflowers in the Parade is in how it depicts its focus on National Service. The documentary beautifully captures the quiet moments amidst the greenery found in the two years of service, juxtaposing the uncertainty of the future felt by servicemen with similar emotions felt by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s a keen approach that stands out in an overall well-produced documentary.

Where Do We Go

Synopsis: Heaven or hell? Do we actually know where we go after we die? The film is a meditation on the array of beliefs concerning where we go after we die. 

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Kung Hak Yee
Producer: Kavitha Manimaran
Director of Photography: Florent Corchia
Editor: Chew Hui Xin
Sound Recordist: Lim Xiang Yin
Audio Post: Batrisyia Hazrin

Where Do We Go is a serene answer to perhaps the greatest fear for many. Never shirking away from the difficult questions, the documentary presents an array of perspectives on the afterlife across age, religion and cultures. Through its visuals, honing in on the still-life of photographs and the expanse of nature, Where Do We Go emanates a sense of comfort by reminding us that our lives here are just a blip within the greater existence that surrounds us all. 

You’re Perfect to Me

Synopsis: Ferdah, a teenage mother, struggles to fit into society again after being ostracised for getting pregnant. A glimpse into her day-to-day life reveals the various challenges she faced, including feeling alone from the lack of support.

Trailer/FilmFreeway link:

Director: Gauraangi Chopra
Producer: Chew Hui Xin
Director of Photography: Ang Zheng Xiang
Editor: Angeline Hendrata
Sound Recordist: Batrisyia Hazrin
Audio Post: Laurelle Theo

Short and to the point, You’re Perfect to Me presents an undiluted look at the struggles of being a teenage mother. Being a near-continuous monologue gives the documentary the rhythm of a candour conversation, with the difficulties shared by the young mother made all the more heart-aching with the interviewee’s still-youthful energy stifled by clear child-rearing exhaustion. The documentary’s pacing is fantastic, carrying the tone forward before crescendoing by letting viewers in on the simple truth of what fuels the seemingly boundless love mothers carry for their children.

Banner image credit: Film still of ‘Gone are the Moat and the Walls

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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