Block 46 by Ghazi Alqudcy

There are films that fit very well into the film festival structure - short, simple, well-executed, concise and textbook-worthy. And there are the other kind of films that are may make your film lecturer frown, they are a shout, a scream from the director's mind, their devil-may-care attitude distinguishes them from other films, they push boundaries, they question and most importantly, they face (with much bravery) the risk of not fitting into a typcial film fest kind of format, style and hence get rejected.

I feel that if only the first kind of films were championed in Singapore, we would not have a `democratic' film scene for there will always be the status quo type of films.

Pardon my lengthy introduction to Ghazi's work`Block 46'. I am in fact not drifting from him for I have just described how much I appreciate his works and his ideas. Block 46 is a documentary about a mass suicide that took place in Block 46 Bedok Ave 3. It was the same site as Yee Wei's shoot for My Blue Heaven. Apparently on a certain date in 2006, 6 people decided to jump to a new kind of freedom. A freedom from their myriad woes, that ranged from AIDs to money to bad marriage.

Adopting the style of a investigative docu, it interviews various people who live in Block 46 and also others who know abit about what death and suicide and tries to extract as much of the truth behind their deaths as possible. What is interesting is the people he has chosen and the what they talk about.
We hear and see interviews with undertakers, old people, and some young people (friends or neighbours of the suicidal 6). They are each asked about their opinions towards death and suicide. A commonly recurring motif was that of the religious framework in which death is placed. Like in some religions, you will go to hell for voluntarily pulling the plug. 6 people dying is an odd thing. I mean, it sounds like something that would happen in a Tokyo subway or some US suburban town. So I felt the religious/supernatural rationalisation of this phenomenon enhanced the mystery that shrouds this event.
As you can see, from the screen shots, there is also something uncanny about the way the interviewees look and emote. But kudos to the camera work and choice of shots. The way it closes up on the people, the partial silhouettes, the intimacy, the occasional menacing looks of some of the older interviewees.... shudder! (as I even type this). Then, there were the cutaways. They certainly reflected a a very observant and mature sensitivity.
I am writing this as if nothing happened in the end. But there was something. Though it does not change my appreciation of this adventurous cross-genre piece.

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