Afterthoughts on Sinema Showoff! Masala Mix 2


That was the word that first popped into my mind after all six films were screened. And aptly so; after all, the event was named Masala Mix for a reason, no?

I use that food reference in both a good and a bad sense. The films screened in the event were all radically different, both in style and in content; their genres spanned from comedy to horror. It is always nice to have variety in any short film screenings. At the same time though, there were the obvious standouts among the lineup.

It is probably tricky to curate a screening of Indian shorts made by local filmmakers when so few have been made to begin with. Again, I give props to the curating team for sourcing out the films and helping audience get acquainted with a couple of gems - Michael Kam's wacky Masala Mama, which competed at the Berlin International Film Festival, was my favourite. SINdie's very own Jeremy Sing also had his film Moving, screened during the event!

The only real problem with the nature of the event was the expectations audiences carried with them into the theatre. The name of the event had them anticipating a line up of films exploring/commenting on the Indian identity in Singapore, but most of the films were really not concerned with such an issue. Many of the films were simply using an Indian cast member either to explore interracial tensions or simply to situate their protagonists in a predominantly Indian social setting.

There are always inherent problems in expecting an "Indian film" made by local filmmakers. What really defines a film as Indian? Going in a similar tangent, what for that matter, is a Singaporean film? I think such clear distinctions for a local brand of Indian film do not yet exist. It is very much up to local filmmakers to shape the contours of what qualifies as an "Indian film". I think some of the audiences were half expecting a Bollywood style short film made by a local filmmaker, but I think that insipid. Drawing on such cultural influences is fine, but Indian culture rooted in a local context is always going to be different from the culture among Indians anywhere else in the world.

Anyhow, I think the event was still smartly named. If anything, the mix of films was good. Some of the films like Masala Mama tapped into cultural traditions - or idiosyncrasies, depending on how you see it - and drew laughs from the audience; others like Moving explored interracial tensions; Deadly Secrets utilized horror conventions prevalent in South Asian films and weaved them into a narrative anchored in a Singaporean context. None of them claimed to be an "Indian film", but I think eventually, as more local filmmakers go on to make films exploring Indian characters in Singapore, a clearer identity of such a subgenre will start to arise.

As of now, I still maintain that some of K. Rajagopal's earlier works come closest to being the quintessential "local Indian film".

As for the crowd, I would say that it is always great to see a full showing at a screening of local shorts. There were more than 130 people present and most of the audiences stayed for the Q and A session. And this time round, no McDonalds eating couple in the cinema, stinking up the place with the stench of oil and fries!

Stayed tuned for the next Showoff! session on Nov 16, which is a continuation of the Masala Mix theme. You can check out the facebook event page here.

P.S. If you guys were in the hall and heard a girl relentlessly bursting into laughter during the screening of some of the films, that was probably SINdie's Melody Chow (sorry, Mel =D). Ok, so some of the films were probably unintentionally funny at parts, but at least they were entertaining, and we're not complaining!
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