Review - 'Ash' by Taj Musco



Not every film that adopts a stark ‘black and white’ palette gains a genuine art-house aura. ‘Ash’ by Taj Musco was a dark horse, pardon the pun, in this year’s Singapore Short Film Awards. Though not nominated for any categories, it shines brightly as a film with one of the most lucid direction and message-to-tell.

The film seamlessly weaves social commentary into a simple story about 2 people who, brought together by society’s oppressive regulatory shackles, develop a friendship. One is an old man, seemingly larger-than-life from wearing a suit at East Coast Park, but who speaks the hearts of many equivalents who are unhappy and helpless about the government encroaching into the what little is left of personal space, like the act of exhuming graves. The other is a seemingly rookie of a policeman who is young at heart, struggling to asset his duty and yet not entirely enslaved in his mind to civil service guidelines.

Around them are faceless (except for that auntie ‘administrator’ from the Ministry of Death) characters who nicely fit into ‘unnamed society’s units’, sharpening the message the film presents to the audience. The film demonstrates a ‘practised’ hand at crafting stark visual metaphors, each heightening the intense ambience of the film. Shots including the morbid looking elevator, the tiled multiplicity of the many storeys of the building interior, the sterilized look of the Ministry of Death and the finally the shot of the 2 ‘other’ policemen scrutinizing the story’s main pair, ‘colour’ the film and accentuate the overhanging sense of oppression the directors is seemingly conveying.

Highly recommended.  If you missed its screening during the Singapore Short Film Awards, we hope some other venue would pick it up. We also interviewed Musco in our ‘Production Talk’ series earlier in the year.

Review by Jeremy Sing

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