Bedtime Chatter on Hearty Films from Civic-Life Part 3 of 4

Photo: Alvin Pang -

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

Here's part 3 of our review / dialogue.

Jeremy (J): So I am looking at the thumbnail of the karom board and pieces and thinking.... not another foreign worker story. (pause) I mean the the Karom was a giveaway... who plays Karom these days?

Alvin (A): Haha, that's sharp. I didn't figure it out till I read the synopsis.
J: But thankfully for that 90 secs of Little India, it's not too bad. It gives you a comfortable glimpse of the chaos in Little India. Strangely in the way it shot its subject and its choice of activity, Little India seemed more…pretty. How do you score this?
A: 3, 3.5, 3, 3.5
J: Pretty level. Any thoughts?
A: I particularly like the way it starts off at the day's end...because that's when they disappear from the construction sites and places you often see them, to a place where they feel a deeper sense of "home".
J: I agree. The night-day reversal had a good point.
A: Must say it does engage the emotions, perhaps because it brings out the little-seen daily routines of these almost-nocturnal group of people. (pause) How do you rate it?
J: For its eye on unexpected beauty, creativity gets a 3, for its lyrical portrayal of their daily routine, 3.5, technicality does not surface as a feature probably because it is fuss-free documentation, so that's a 2.5. Overall, it gets a 3.

A: I like how the filmmaker makes a conscious effort to make a tribute at the end - "For the migrant workers - who put their hearts into our homes" ...fleshes out the emotional and authenticity of the film.
J: To put it in a cliche, it is a whimsical look at migrant workers
A: I see it as more than that actually...the emotional elements reminds me a little of a film by the renowned Taiwanese director Tsai Ming Liang - 'I don't want to sleep alone'.

Mandarin Gardens 2010 from Eugene Soh on Vimeo.

J: Moving ahead, Mandarin Gardens is home-video made to look exquisite
A: Haha well put, got to agree with that assessment though. How do you rate it?
J: It's a 2, 2.5, 3.5, 2 for me.
A: Mine's is a 2, 2.5, 2, 2.5. (pause) That's a pretty high score for technicality.
J: High? I bet they have a mean camera ok. HD, telephoto lens, aperture/contrast control and all.
A: Personally I felt the unsteady cam served more of a distraction than its assumed intention to bring out the candour of the "home vid"
J: What do you think of the narrative or the content?
A: The dialogue felt scripted at times, though must add the candid shots were a nice touch to even that out...content felt a little shallow for me. How about you? How did it work on an emotional level for u?
J: There was something strange about the set up of the video. I think it's meant to be spontaneous, yet there was a palpable sense that the women were acting it up a bit. There is a strong middle-class corporate executive undertone to their delivery and sensibilities. (pause) For the warmth and wholesome goodness of home that I am supposed to feel, I felt it was a little bland.
A: (On the strong middle-class tones) Hmm well to be fair, Mandarin Gardens isn't what one would call Heartland-ish
J: Haha. Don't you think it's strange nobody wants to watch the middle class on screen. People like either people at the pits or the rich and vulgar. (pause) Eerrm.... actually I just answered my own question!
A: Haha!

Miniature Town : Potong Pasir from togusa chan on Vimeo.

J: Miniature Town Potong Pasir gets a 4, 2, 5, 3.5 from me.

A: This film's an interesting one.. it gets 4, 2, 4.5, 3 from me. Wow but we finally got our first 5!

J: Yes. Perfect execution of the dioramas here.
A: Impressive technicality and creativity, especially seeing the town in miniature models. But how do you think it came together overall?
J: It intrigues me! It works on so many layers. Visually, it compels your attention. It's certainly a labour of love. In fact, almost too good for the scale of this competition. I wish the film lives a long life.
A: I personally felt that besides the "technical showmanship" as it were, the film felt a little fragmented. For example, I didn't quite get/feel the accompanying Japanese soundtrack and thought it disengaged a little with the overall themes.
A: Why just 3.5 for X-Factor then? You sound like it impressed on a greater level.
J: I feel on visuals alone, it's marked out its turf clearly and it's a solid one. But I agree about its fragmented feel. And come to think of it, it does not really answer the brief. It is clear this one's all out to impress and I'm impressed! (pause) By the way, do you think there is any siginificance to it using a diorama?
A: I felt it was to tie in with its "a day in little Potong Pasir" theme... How did you see it?
J: In what way was it a tie in?
A: Perhaps in surfacing the fact (as stated in synopsis) that it's one of the smallest estates in Singapore?
J: Yeah, that's why I found it to be very creative. In fact, I wondered if there was any political reference intended in the way it made Potong Pasir into something anomalous
A: How so?
J: Well, given that Potong Pasir belongs to a different political party, the treatment of the film seemed to be to put it under a different set of lenses…zooming in on details and blurring out the rest of PAP-owned Singapore!

I am home - Jason Chan & Andrew Keegan from Jason Chan on Vimeo.

J: You know, I am really itching to you how you would score the next clip I am Home
I am usually a contrarian and I avoid siding popular opinion. But I give in this time
A: It's another add to my "favourites" shortlist.. 4, 4, 4.5, 5.

J: I have a 5 somewhere, can you guess?
A: I would say X-factor (?)
J: That’s just one. It's a 5, 4, 5, 5.

A: Talk about standing out from the crowd, 'I am home' is definitely one to remember from the 20 competition films…not just in execution and impressive technicals, but the humour element is such a refreshing touch... Curious, why the lower score for emotional aspects?
J: I feel there is always a trade off between poignancy and how scripted the film is. This is scripted to the frame. But executed with precision of course. Good thing they went with humour and not melancholy or nostalgia.
A: Thought so, I would say the script is well-written to flesh out the narrator's emotional journey... and I guess that added dimension - fact that it's not just a physical homecoming but an emotional one as well - really engages the viewer…Self-deprecating humour FTW!
J: You know the idea is almost seamless to me... I will challenge to pick out the flaws. What are they and how would you make it better if that's possible?
A: It would be nitpicking, but in a way you could say the script was over-sapping the homecoming journey...and you?
J: His presenter personality... he sounds too perfect. Using the same idea with an average Joe would resonate more with me

The Stone Table from yanqiu on Vimeo.

A: The Stone Table is one lesson in straining your ears... Mine is a 2, 2, 2.5, 2
A: The direction and treatment as well actually... but maybe not so much a strain as a cringe. Interesting choice of language used in the narration, in short felt it over-glorified the theme. What are your ratings?
J: It's a 2, 2, 2, 2. (pause) I personally felt it was over-intellectualising and the idea stood on wobbly ground. The most interesting thing in the film is a (probably) intended detail - the strewn plastic at the side.
A: Yeah I was wondering why that too
J: I surmise that it is probably deliberate because it remained there after the boys left the void deck, making a subtle statement
A; Yup, perhaps a slight touch to give the shot more authenticity
J: But was it there as an ode to ‘American Beauty’ or even worse, an oversight of the Art Department!
A: Haha, it wasn't swirling in the wind though...Perhaps more the latter then.

Read Part 1 and Part 2. Part 4 will be continued...

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