'Dreaming Kester' by Martin Hong - SIFF Shorts Finalists

Kids are hearing so many voices in their heads these days. In my days in school, there were only a few voices – (1) The parent, who keeps reminding me of the consequences of not studying hard, (2) The child, in me that wants still wants to play and be creative. Thoughts were simple then and there was no internet then. These days there are a lot more voices – (1) The parent (2) The child (3) Facebook that tells you who you should be (4) The TV shows and advertisements and (5) The peers who determine for you what’s cool and what’s not. Suddenly, being an adult is not just a matter of going through a rites of passage. It is a rocky road and not everything is what it seems on the outside.

‘Dreaming Kester’ reaffirms what I feel about the way kids think these days – they are given more freedom but the freedom of thought makes them more sensitized to any misfortune or potential danger. The danger in the case of the film is growing up, as represented by the adultist voices that ‘Kester’ hears in his mind. Like the blanket that appears in his film, ‘Dreaming Kester’ is a real patchwork of different whims, thoughts, forms and styles. It is jarring and disorientating at first. And makes you very tempted to utter in an ‘adultist’ tone in your head – ‘a school boy’s piece of work’. But its unadulterated, untempered childishness is also its winning trait. Films are like a speaking language. When a certain style is popularized, followers will succumb unknowingly and any deviation from it may be perceived as less ‘film-like’. So perhaps, it helps to be young and slightly ignorant of what the popular styles are.

In the film, Kester is fighting hard against the adultists who are trying to make him conform and grow up like a conventional adult. He’s got very little on his side except will power and an endearing little guardian angel who comes with a box head. Bumbling clumsily on his bed, the little one is a source of encouragement for Kester. (While watching it, I could not help noticing the DIY ‘green-screen’ technique used, it looks unprofessional but also helplessly funny). In a way, the avalanche of ideas and points raised resemble a school essay. Weren’t we all idealistic once? Didn’t we once have answers to everything? Or at least must come up with an answer no matter what? But there were not entirely un-cinematic as well. There was a moment in the swimming pool in which I wondered if a sinking Kester was going to pull through. There was also the very heart-warming montage of flashes of Kester’s real personal photos that made him more than just a narrative agent, someone real.

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