Bedtime Chatter on Hearty Films from Civic-Life Part 1 of 4

Over the last few days, many people have been tuning into the Civic Life website by the British Council to check up on the Top 20 entries in the 'Home is where the Heart is' competition. SINdie could not resist 'playing God' a little with our review of the 20 films vying for the top prize. So here our 'critical analysis' of the films. We have also created a little rating system as well. So the films are rated in the following 5-point scales in this order:

Is it creative?
Does it engage you emotionally?
Impressive technicals?
The X-factor

Small Paradise from Kimberly Ong on Vimeo.

Alvin (A): ‘Small Paradise’ gets a 2.5, 3, 2.5 and 3.
Jeremy (J): For me, it is a 2, 4, 3 and 2.5. (pause) By the way, all pretty dismal scores.
A: Perhaps because its intentionally simplistic nature (to capture elements of childhood) falls short of engaging too much emotion?
J: I on the other hand felt something warm and comforting in that simplicity - the shots of seaweed, water, sunshine.... all very unassuming, yet charming.. hence the title ‘Small Paradise’.
A: Well noted. I like how the title fits in with the film's concept as well.. i.e. small memories in small "paradise".
J: Exactly... but having said that. it is forgettable amongst the entire stable of 20 films cos it is about little everyday moments (which can be captivating) but the images were pretty cliché in this film.
A: Agreed. Perhaps its theme/angle is its Achilles heel then - a tad too whimsical to be etched in the mind.
J: Whimsy is ok... but bad for online competition... the Youtube audience loves to be entertained.

One by Christian Lee from Christian Lee on Vimeo.

A: Moving on, ‘One’ gets a 3, 4, 3, and 3.5.
J: For me, it is a 2, 2, 2, 2.
A: Wow, sounds like you don't fancy it much.
J: You read me... explain your scores.
A: I like how it starts out with the shot/description of the nondescript building and moves on to its deeper significance to the protagonist's life.
J: I agree ... nice progression. (pause) However, if you look at it critically, the idea is in their hobby, which technically is not part of the process of making the film.
A: Well, I still like it better than the first perhaps because it leaves a stronger sense of attachment, through the transition from the inanimate (building/lion head, dance) to a deeper emotional level that brings out the desire of the couple in them wanting to fulfill each other's dreams and desires. That sense of "sweetness" hooks me in.
J: You are so wanting to get married .... lol
A: In absolutely no rush at all. On your point about the hobby, I am not sure if it's their "hobby" or something they (or the husband/narrator in particular) had to go out of his way to do in order to fulfill his wife's unconventional wish. (pause) Perhaps also the fact that it's such an unconventional/peculiar request that makes the memory of this film stick out. I mean who would think of "marrying" (pardon the pun) lion dance and a wedding ceremony?
J: Well... whatever works to make you remember... but just does not hit the right emotional notes in me.
A; I thought it could have been better if the narrator (assumed protagonist) accent was expanded on. Sounds like he isn't local and would have brought an interesting dimension to the culturally-Chinese thing he's doing. Would it have made a difference for u?
J: I think the accent made the video very foreign to me. So yes, totally makes a difference for me.

Boxes and Lines by Reb Ling from Reb Ling on Vimeo.

A: My scores for Boxes and Lines are 3, 2, 2, and 3.
J: 4,1,2,2.5 for me. I gave creativity a 4 for its bold direction. (pause) It stands out from the rest for its strong grip on a visual metaphor. But it falters on all the other aspects. Most of all, they need a better narrator.
A: Agreed. I like how she parallels her sport passion with something probably more familiar to females - relationships. Just reading the synopsis, I was convinced it was something about relationships!
J: Yes... straights lines and circles and trajectories…says so much about relationships!
A: The choice of shots seemed a little myopic to me too. Football is as much a spectator sport (read: couch potato) as a physical sport but there wasn't any emphasis on that.
J: I like how you used the word myopic. (beat) In fact, the cinematic breadth is very limited and it constricts our view of her world. On another note, I also feel I don't have to explain the low score on technicals. The camera was shaking 80% of the time.
A: Bringing up your point on the narrator earlier, why do you think it could do with better?
J: She is expressing using a lot of heavy angsty words but her delivery sounds very level-headed and bland. So she needs to make those words come alive. (pause) I think the upbeat, synthetic-sounding music works against her content as well.
A: I'm just thinking whether it could be attributed to the fact it's a male-dominated sport and thus the composed, non-emotive bassy tones.
J: Yes..... I am picturing her with extremely short hair with an affinity for pants.

Remember from Tang Kang Sheng on Vimeo.

J: ’Remember’ gets a 2, 3.5, 3, 3. (pause) The thumbnail grabbed my attention because it featured something deeply personal. But I felt he could have done a lot more with the old photographic gems.
A: I assume that contributes to the 2 in creativity then.
J: I mean he could have done more with those old gems.
A: I give it a 2.5, 4, 3 and 3.5.
J: It affects you emotionally I see.
A: Yup. I think that's the key takeaway for me in ‘Remember’. (pause) I like how the narrative starts and ends, it divulges a little on the narrator and sounds like he's a bad state. Quote: "As you grow older, you tend to do things you......really regret". Though on the surface it seems so little what present choices/mistakes have to do with his past or with his grandparents, it somehow affects him enough to link it. I love how the narration ends as it started, a pensive look at his life and desire to set it right because of his past.
J: I like how the narration is very sincere. No, raw is a better word. (beat) It's a totally untrained voice that is speaking from the heart. The only pity is the speech rhythm and inflexions seems out of sync sometimes.
A: Yeah I agree on the fact his voice/tone was so raw and untrained. As if it were unscripted…and it was a plus to the authenticity for me.
J: But it's a double-edged sword. The rawness also makes the clip less punctuated…I remember fragments but I don't register a story.
A: That has a strange appeal to me in some way. The narrator brings out enough to imply there are undercurrents but makes one wonder what they are and how they tie in to his past. (pause) It's almost like the viewer is given fragments to piece the puzzle together, though obviously there are many missing pieces.
J: Well, strange is the word. It feels incomplete, raw, a little unsteady, clumsy but you know… perhaps its gaps reinforce the idea of a void.

The Tree from Mary Magdeline Pereira on Vimeo.

A: ‘The Tree’ gets a 2, 2, 2, 2.
J: Wow, that says a lot!
A: Haha, unfortunately the film doesn't.
J: I am going with 1, 2, 1, 2. (pause) It is strange it got into the top 20. The only thing of note (i.e. the narrative) was in short, the clip is overly poetic, scripted, and way overdone for my liking.
J: Poeticism-overkill.
A: Also there was little, if any congruence between the narrative and the shot. "Red berries...squirrel scambering.." But all one sees is a nondescript looming tree barely of note. (pause) At times it seemed the disoriented camera was confused of what to capture and I don't think you can expect the viewer to be any more enlightened.
J: Yes, it's a strange case of the words serving the visuals rather than the visuals serving the words. And the shots were very literal too, giving the impression of poet making a clumsy cross-disciplinary crossover.

To be continued with Part 2, 3 and 4...

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