6th Singapore Short Film Awards: Thoughts on Best Fiction
The nominees for Best Fiction at the 6th Singapore Short Film Awards are Bon Voyage, Last Trip Home, Stranger by Night and Chamber of Ox.
Bon Voyage is an understated short film that depicts a familiar narrative: the unspoken strong bonds between a grandson and his grandmother. On the cusp of his departure for studies abroad, he visits his grandmother's flat for a lovingly-prepared, humble home-cooked meal, after which they take a trip down memory lane. The narrative is clearly conveyed despite minimal dialogue, in the authentic and familiar setting of an HDB flat. However, the film's outcome is somewhat predictable, leaving the viewer hoping there had been some sort of resolution—a conversation, or any greater expression of emotion…any breaking of the silence (comfortable as it seemed)—provoked by the grandson's impending long-term departure.
Last Trip Home
Last Trip Home is about a father and son, Chinese immigrants, who wish to go back home with their only remaining possession, their car. The meandering film attempts to showcase moments of deep and tender intimacy between the two main characters, with varying levels of effectiveness—the moments of humour often seeming more natural than more deliberate scenes such as father and son showering together. At the end of the film they are not quite successful in their intentions. But this is a film that suggests, the journey is perhaps as meaningful and important as reaching the destination.
Stranger by Night
Stranger by Night is a stylish and moody little short enhanced by its being filmed in black-and-white; the absence of colour lends it a certain je ne sais quoi. It features lonesome security guard Lim Poh Huat who is visited by three mysterious individuals during the course of his shift. With the characters' unlikely outfits, particular mannerisms and little details like old-fashioned sunglasses and cigarettes, the film is visually pleasing but aside from the protagonist's expressive moments, lacks much depth and points of genuine emotional connection.
Chamber of Ox
In Chamber of Ox, a man is seemingly pursued and haunted by feline apparitions after drowning a bag of kittens. The quirky, briskly-paced film uses creative and well-delivered animation techniques to create a world of creepy, menacing cats (both real and figurines) complemented by a creepy soundtrack and an expressive (human) protagonist whose desperation and panic still manages to evoke a bit of sympathy and definitely some laughs.
My vote for Best Fiction goes to Chamber of Ox for its unconventional, darkly funny narrative, conveyed through a variety of interesting filmmaking techniques.
Review by Aditi Shiva