Review - 'Ruslan' by Sabrina Poon



The recent 6th Singapore Indie Documentary Fest at the Substation presented some new local documentaries and favourites like Lynn Lee and James Leong's The Great North Korean Picture Show. We review a couple of the docu shorts presented at the fest.

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Everyone makes mistakes. Some learn while some don't, some get away with a few but some get punished permanently for one.

When Ruslan, a man in his 40s, was released from the prison, he discovers that society is generally not accepting of him. He makes ends meet by working on odd jobs and finds himself living simply under a public flyover. Soon before long, he will be forced to leave his makeshift home in order to pave way for upgrading works.

In this 12-minute documentary film, 'Ruslan' makes a stirring piece of reminder for public to not turn a blind eye towards people who direly need another shot in life. The subject lets audience into his private life of everyday struggles in changing himself to be a better man. He harbours deep desires to be free from unpleasant social pressure and stigma towards ex-convicts.  His positivity, inner strength and new found discipline in keeping a clean record, with guidance at Pertapis Halfway Home, will tug audience's hearts to root for him, and others like him.

At one point in the film, Ruslan shares a particular close shave incident when he offered his place to a recovering drug addict friend who needed shelter for a few days. Much later, he got a call from his friend hurrying him to throw away particles of drug which was unknowingly hidden in a closet. Ruslan went completely ballistic and felt betrayed by his friend whom he felt could have caused him to be an accomplice for drug possession. Now, he is particularly cautious when helping out as such unforeseen incidents could possibly charred his chances to regain public trust and lead a normal life.

The power of any good documentary lies in its subject. In this case, Sabrina Poon has hit home run with the man of the title. Her gutsy selection of subject resembles a curious mouse walking daintily in a lion's den.  Her work also exudes sincerity which probably what Ruslan must have acknowledged from the start hence, the delivery and narration come across as heartfelt. This can be seen when Ruslan does not seem to mind opening up old wounds to a complete stranger and doing his regular walkabout or exercise routine in front of the camera.

Sabrina is also skillful in balancing between how she wants to tell the story and how Ruslan wants to be portrayed. Albeit her first attempt in documentary making, she delivered both the message and subject remarkably outstanding which keeps audience wanting more.


Review by Haswani

Haswani is both a ninja and crazy bunny on the loose. She has fallen hopelessly in love with filmmaking on the last semester in Uni and tells herself that she needs to marry a Hollywood actor (read: Ryan Gosling) to finance her filmmaking studies in Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. If further studies doesn't work out, she will focus on perfecting her lethal karate chops and deadly weapon-throwing moves.

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