First Takes of the Year 2008

Every once a month on a Monday evening, something important happens. 3 -4 films, enthusiastically put together by different people who have taken that brave first step beyond empty film talk, see the light of day. We are not sure if you will get to catch them again somewhere else in Singapore or overseas. If it was good by wider standards, they get talked about again when they get another screening in SIFF, Short Cuts, Asian Film Symposium etc. If not, the filmmakers might shelf them and move on to the next film, dismissing it as well, just a `first take'.

Well, I personally believe every take deserves some talk even if it is just a filmmaker's `formative' piece. A film is a person's vision. So, craftsmanship aside, entering his world is already a fruitful journey in itself. And if enough people talk about and get interested, the driving impetus for making films become stronger. So to those who attended today's First Takes and are reading this, I urge you to feel free to post your comments about the 3 short films in this blog. You can send me an email or just post your comments directly here.

Early Sunday Morning by Ong Chao Hong
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I have watching a number of films on Western subjects featuring Western people directed by Asian people. Most famous of all, My Blueberry night by Wong Kar Wai. But the dialogues in it unsettled me. Early Sunday Morning seemed to thread a fine balance between Western and Asian sensibilities. There were those fairytalesque, whimsical moments like when the little girl stepped into the high heeled shoes of the female protagonist. There were the contemplative still shots of empty rooms and corridor that were reminiscent of the works of Tsai Ming Liang and Hou Hsiao Hsien (could not help remembering Viva L' amour, haha).And there was that line of frustration she blurted out to her brother about his denying of responsibility that felt so Asian.

It was overall a graceful little story told with great camera work and lighting that greatly enhanced the reflective and slightly regretful mood of the piece. I had a little misperception about the last scene though. It featured lonesome cloud (`Wayward Cloud'?) against a sky of a very cheerful blue colour. I was not sure at that time if it was a real shot of the sky or a wallpaper shot. It struck me it might have been interesting in a surrealistic way it was the latter. Some food for thought.....

Blurb by Leon Lim

Blurb was an interesting piece that must be applauded for its gutsy approach to creating a unique storytelling style. Like Leon, I also took the 10 week Digital Filmmaking course at Objectifs. For those who have done that, you would agree that Leon has done himself proud. It demonstrates efforts made at the crucial steps taught in the crash course. I know of many who did not take it seriously and did not complete their works at the end of the course.

Back to Blurb. I like that fact that Leon has delivered it with wit and some slightly absurdist humour. And with pieces of this kind of genre, many often run the risk of boring the audience after a while because the audience expects to be surprised and challenged. Fortunately, Leon has kept it mostly short, though there were those trying moments. I have no doubts from the film's dialogue and the Q and A, Leon has a lot of potential to be milked. Perhaps, it is maiden attempt thing or a crossover thing (cos Leon writes a lot) that Blurb was a little too talky. Or was there an intended oxy-moron that I was supposed to catch? But keep it up Leon. Looking forward to the other Civil Servant piece. Sounds hilarious already.

The Mitre Spell by Tony Kern & Genevieve Woo
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and the Youtube Video on

The superimposition of after-effects against rather dramatic looking shots of an old house made me wonder where Tony was taking us to. It was not until the interview scenes came on that I became certain I was watching a documentary. But the shots were by no means a `first taker's' attempt. Theye were well composed, trained with adventurous in a mature sort of way.
The Mitre Hotel was the subject of a long-standing legal battle because it involved eviction and government land etc. The experimental documentary seeked the points of view of a few odd tenants who have developed some deep sentiments for the place. And in a darkly funny sort of way (to the audience), it showed the extent of their sentiments. Like putting up with the dilapidated furnishings and the supernatural housemates.
It was certainly a very interesting subject to choose as a documentary because of the many ways a single topic like this could reflect on the larger society and its values. It was a pity that the editing could have been tighter. I think it is because in staying faithful to the subject matter, the shots became rather monotonous as they were confined to the sameness of the differeny rooms featured. Still, there was a that genuine quality of the responses from the interviewees that lent some degree of credibility to the film.

And if the tralier of his next documentary are anything to go by, this is one dedicated filmmaker to watch.
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