3rd Singapore Short Film Awards Preview: Reviews of Kevin (2011) & Rags to Riches (2011)

What’s in a title? You wonder when a screener is first handed to you. Here, we have two short films so conveniently named, one can’t tell what the stories are about unless you read the provided synopses. Ding Xiao’s Kevin (2011) is presumably about Kevin, who’s a… boy? A tiger? A house? Meanwhile, Colin Tan’s Rags to Riches (2011), as one would assume, is a tale of how one becomes wealthy after dealing with garbage. These are just two of the 100-odd films screened at the 3rd Short Film Awards. And how do they fare?
Ding’s three-minute film is, surprise surprise – about a dinosaur named Kevin. The graduate from the School of Art, Design and Media at NTU has come up with the adorable concept of what a prehistoric creature would do if he were to battle his primal needs on a deserted island.
While we aren’t sure whether there is a social commentary embedded somewhere in this brightly-coloured production, we love Kevin’s mischievously lovable expressions. The plot isn’t what you’d call revolutionary (maybe it’s Ding’s exact intentions to keep things short and sweet), but this digestible piece of work is one you’d find yourself smiling throughout.
If Ding’s film is a breeze to sit through, Tan’s sits nicely on the other end. His 25-minute documentary explores how a tradition in the National University of Singapore (NUS) has evolved over the years. Spearheaded by the university’s Student’s Union, the annual Rag and Flag is a charity project that is part of the campus’ Orientation Programme. The first portion sees undergraduates from the university asking for donations islandwide for various beneficiaries. In return, the school puts up a spectacular show - Rag, as a thanking gesture.
The film is a collection of interviews from various sources, and don’t blame us for initially thinking that this is a promotional video for the school event. Shot with what you can call “guerrilla style” (complete with unbalanced audio levels), Tan goes from source to source eliciting comments about how Rag and Flag’s objectives and outcomes have changed over the years.
It is not through the one-third mark of the film that we realise the filmmaker has a point to make. There is something almost insidious about the event, something dark and shady, which the organisers shouldn’t be proud of. The filmmaker’s intentions to expose the truth are commendable (who doesn’t want to be a Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock?), but the product feels somewhat half-baked and half-hearted. The film would have worked better with tighter editing, that’s for sure. A redux version, maybe?

The 3rd Singapore Short Film Awards (SSFA) takes place at The Substation Theatre from 5-11 March. For more information, click here.

Watch this space for other short films reviews from the SSFA!

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