Mr Keating in Dead Poet's Society

This is like a story from one of those school-themed movies. An off-the-mill kind of teacher rounds up a group of eager students to change something. Mr Adrian Lim is one such character. He teahes at Canberra Secondary School and runs the A.I. Club. A.I. stands for Arts and Innovation and not Artifical Intelligence. However, it seems film and video making is hijacking what Arts and Innovation might refer to in Canberra. His students (and himself) have come a long way from knowing how to operate cameras. They have emerged champions in the School Video Awards for many years, virtually a huge cut above the rest. And they had an early start, and already enjoyed considerable success in the same time as when Royston Tan's short films and '15' were making huge waves.
The Canberra Secondary School Special is programme solely dedicated to the films they have made. Though the films were a little old, I found it difficult where to place them in a time dimension. The themes were universal and somehow evergreen. They covered poverty, freedom, violence, religion and sexuality. And not only do they have their fingers in these pies, the films do challenge you and disturb you. Sitting through them, I often forget these socially-conscious films were born out of the minds of secondary school students. Though they reflected a highly idealistic view of the world, they were neither overly-judgemental nor paying 'lip-service' to issues. If you put 'Reel Revolution' (video contest by Substation) and 'Fly-by-night' together, this is what you might get. Socially-conscious videos with some fun and flair.

Of the films screened the 'Canberra Special' at Sinema Old School, Promises, their flagship piece stood out naturally. Unlike the rest which were mostly documentaries, this is a narrative short film. It uses reverse storytelling to reveal the truth behind the appearance of a ghost at the start of the film. A man drives along a spooky deserted road. He spots a girl and gives her a lift. Looking a little ravenous, he tries to take a advantage but was nowhere prepared for a supernatural twist. My first impression was, the 'red-cloth-encircling-the-car-effect' was executed impeccably!

The story itself was quite grim. So a large part of me was disturbed at how young school students could deal with these at such extents. Watching on, I could not help but feel the maturity in the treatment of the content. In fact, I only wished the story was less linear than it appeared. This is a story of an orphaned girl who is betrayed but the one person she trusted most. The story sounds like a trap for melodrama but it more objective and thought-provoking than anything else.

I had a chance to get in closer touch with Mr Lim and some of his students to understand this 'ECA' a bit better. More to come!

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