Our picks for the 3rd Singapore Short Films Awards. Tonight!


The 3rd Singapore Short Film Awards returns with visibly less fanfare but a more diverse repertoire of genres that stretch from understated realism to bombastic fantasy, from bizzare (and sometimes awkward) experiments to simply family soap. The mixed basket is perhaps incidental but yet it heralds a new era of filmmakers who are confident in walking their own unbeaten paths.

Among the nominees, animation makes its presence felt this year with a handful of meticulously crafted gems that have a firm grasp of both storytelling on one hand and aesthetics on the other. Even Kan Lume, starts a new thread in his surrealistic experiments by using pencil drawing animation. In a way, it seems to remind me that the government’s attempt to earn another hub status, in this case animation and post-production, is paying off a little.

What’s also noticeable among the nominees is the band of films that are Singaporean takes on the foreign world. Anthony Chen does an ‘Ang Lee’ with his sensitively-crafted ‘LightHouse’. Kirsten Tan reprises surrealism with a dash of absurdity in ‘Thin Air’ set in an American city. Venice Film Festival – nominated Tan Shijie transposes the SDU anxiety of Singapore to a quiet Japanese surburban town.

Perhaps it is getting harder to define the Singapore psyche well enough to tell a good story., with people are moving and letting new ones come in at an alarming pace.. After all, filmmakers are just out there to make a good film. It does not matter if it is not ‘Singaporean’ enough.

With the diverse group of nominees, it makes the job of judging much more difficult. So here is our picks of the awards.

Best Script
Godzaizar
Sisters
Hentak Kaki
Bliss
The Hole
Lighthouse

Our Pick: Lighthouse for not showing us a real lighthouse but instead taking us on a road trip to 'see the light'. The script's linear yet not-linear treatment of dealing with the loss of a loved one brings to life a family of characters who are each in their own world yet interacting in a very believable way.

Best Performance
First Breath After Coma
Love in Any Genre
Sisters
Hentak Kaki
Bliss

Our Pick: There is something about Bliss that is genuinely affecting. It's how the characters seem so vulnerable and free from the need to make their presence felt. Bliss has managed to fuse both its narrative and its characters into one seamlessly yet without robbing the actors of their 'moments'. Marc Gabriel Loh in First Breath After Coma presents a good alternative but somehow the character played seldom developed beyond a state of self-doubt and feeling urequited love.

Cinematography
Bliss
Cut Adrift
Existence
Lighthouse
The Hole

Our Pick: It is so difficult to pick when a category packs 3 genres into its nominees - documentary, experimental and narrative. It's a tough choice between Bliss and Lighthouse. Both films have thoughtfully weave deliberate camera angles and shots into part of the storytelling, whether it is in revealing an object or presenting characters in a certain tableau against their immediate backgrounds. Will the judges give it to a newbie or a circuit regular? It's hard to say.


Best Art Direction
Godzaizer
Love in Any Genre
Mandy’s 8 Theories of Sleep
Sanzaru

Our Pick: Godzaizer edges out Mandy’s 8 Theories of Sleep only by a tiny margin in this. There is a lot of thoughtful and meticulously crafted detail in Godzaizer. Not only are the robots well 'engineered', the authentic details of the old-school iron-grilled gate, the shop sign and the interior paraphernalia reflect a concerted effort to lend the film context through visual design. Mandy's 8 Theories however is also delightfully ingenious in the way its translates a child's imagination. Love the cardboard bus!

Best Sound
Bliss
Burger Burger
Sanzaru
The Hole

Our Pick: This is tough category where no one nominee stands out clearly from the rest. Will it be creative sound design in Burger Burger or sensitive sound-scaping or even 'mastering the art of silence' in The Hole? Or will it be the wistful touch of narration that reminisces bittersweet times? Our pick goes to Bliss for staying true to it aim to tell a simple honest story using the power of a genuine voice.

Best Editing
Sisters
Wild Dogs
Bliss
Existence
Sanzaru

Our Pick: Bliss, which interweaves the current with the past and cleverly uses the same actors in both enactments, allowing the audience to cross-reference and draw their own lessons about growing up and moving with the times. What the editing has done is to make this happen by blurring the lines where the past and present meet through interlaying narration about the past over the present day footages and vice versa, yet in a seamless fashion.

Best Documentary
Peace Be Upon You
Wild Dogs
Existence
Unheard

Our Pick: Not an inspiring cohort of nominees but Existence packs in thoughtful content with the occasional clever play of soundbites. That's our pick.

Best Fiction
Sisters
Bliss
Thin Air
The Hole
Lighthouse

Our Pick: Lighthouse ticks all the boxes in terms of delivering a good story with credible acting and an immaculate and polished visual finishing to the film. It is difficult to point a finger at piece so well-conceived. But sometimes, its the imperfections in a film or an effortless and unintended transcendental moment that captures your heart that says this was not part of the filmmaker's plan but mimicks life in a undeniable way. This was what the largely silent and simple film The Hole gave us. So that's our pick.

Best Animation
Godzaizer
Libertas
A Cloudy Conundrum
Burger Burger
Tales of the Chugawagas

Our Pick: Godzaizer despite its resemblance to Steven Speilberg's Real Steel edges out the rest with its meticulous attempt to tell a story with a heart and lots of craft. While its storyline is predictable, the localisation of the sci-fi genre is novel.


Best Director
Godzaizer
Hentak Kaki
Bliss
The Hole
Lighthouse

Our Pick: A familiar theme done with a mature sensitivity is The Hole. Shijie, the director of The Hole masters the art of the unspoken reaction and, like his earlier film For Two, manages to ignite an organic kind interaction between his characters, who break into little moments of quiet spontaneity. And the camera lingers on enough for us not feel the director is 'getting on with the script'. Yet not long enough to make us feel deliberation. We love to see more works from Shijie!

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