Afterthoughts on Sinema Export! Sanif Olek's Love Trilogy

Sinema's Showoff! series has of late been playing to maximum capacity, and due credit has to be given to Singapore Polytechnic's tireless efforts in keeping the programme alive and kicking - having a team of young, enthusiastic student volunteers sure can do wonders. I have to take my hats off to the curators; I have not been to a single Showoff! session that was badly assembled. Of course there were the occasional weak films, but to be fair this is a platform to raise the profile of budding filmmakers, so I think that is unavoidable.

Following the resounding success and overwhelming reception of the Showoff! series, the team at Sinema and Singapore Polytechnic has conceived of a new programme. Sinema Export! is a newly launched event that will screen award-winning and acclaimed local films that have been supported by Sinema and Singapore Polytechnic at international film festivals and/or curated programmes.

I was down for the pilot Export! session. Billed as Sanif Olek's Love Trilogy, it boasted three of his shorts that have already travelled the film festival circuit extensively. It was heartening to see the entire screening hall filled up, even though I (being my usual cynical self) suspect many amongst the audience were cast and crew members of Sanif Olek's productions. Nonetheless, the crowd made for a more cosy atmosphere. (Though I'd like to digress at this point and say that the guy in front of me who brought his McDonalds meal into the theatre did a damn good job of ruining that because I was incredibly perturbed by the smell of oil and french fries permeating the hall.)

As a self-declared aficionado of (local) film, I am ashamed to say I have never heard of Sanif Olek prior to the event. And yes, shame on me, because after watching those three shorts, it occurred to me how incredibly talented and underrated he is. As a filmmaker, he has an incredibly fresh voice, and he tells his stories with great conviction.

I won't be reviewing the films because Jeremy has already done so previously, but what struck me was how unapologetic Sanif was in setting his faith as the theme and backdrop of several of his films. Many filmmakers are wont to steering clear of such touchy topics, and many who do tackle such issues in their film do so clumsily. Religion can be used so much more than just a source of conflict or a mere coping mechanism in film. Sanif managed to use faith not only as an instrument for his characters' process of self discovery, but also rather deftly taps on religion to elicit laughs. AMEEN is a startlingly good example of how to humour an audience using the idiosyncrasies of religious people, without being crude or insulting. And even though he features heavy quotations of the Qur'an, those portions fortunately do not alienate, but in a really succinct way round off his films brilliantly.

Definitely excited to see more of his future works.

Sanif is currently looking for funding for his new film, currently in the works. You can go to his production company's website, reeljuice to contact him.

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