singapore Short Film Awards - Broken Wing by Vicknesh Varan

This social documentary deals with the plight of foreign workers from India, covering the same ground as 'The Call Home' by Han Yew Kwang. It's shocking that nothing's changed in a decade and it's only gotten worse for them. The experiences shared are harrowing. They include extortions, beatings, cheating and exploitation. But the sharpness of the pain conveyed is evidently blunted by its own design. A real-life worker shares his predicament point-blank. However, his outpourings are interjected with a theatrical performance that aims to allegorise his situation. Decked in earth-toned tunics and with their faces dotted with tribal paints, the actors contort, gyrate, swing themselves to deliver some sort fo cryptic message related to the man's story.

To be fair, it was not that difficult to 'uncode' the pantomime. But the purpose it served in a film format seemed weak. Crisp cutaways of scenes or even photographs could preserve the intensity of its message better. Moreover, every 'act' was just a dance representation of what had been shared by the narrator, making the experience repetitive. It seems these 'staged' films are a tricky hybrid, nothing's beat 'Dogville' so far.

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