2SSFA - 'Epiphany' Han Xuemei

The premise of this short film—a final-year project for NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information—seems a tad overdone. From the breakout award-winning Crash (2004) to Babel (2006), the butterfly effect has been a recurring theme in films attempting to capture a tangible link to what starts out as seemingly disparate events—and possibly discombobulate audiences.

Yes, we get it. What goes around comes around, karma is a bitch. And the synopsis, all of one sentence, easily augurs a sense of foreboding. Quoted verbatim, it reads as such: “On a particular morning, three vulnerable individuals unknowingly cross paths and play a part in changing one another’s destinies”.

That said, Epiphany provides a hackneyed Asian angle to this theme. We have the forlorn suicidal daughter, all decked in bright red and threatening to haunt as a vengeful spirit; her grandmother, fraught with worry at the sudden disappearance of the daughter leading to near tragedies; the hooligan boyfriend, the distracted speeding driver, et al. The short purveys these stereotypes, along with the notion of an interconnectability of fate that would perhaps lead some to ponder over the very existence of life, watch out for signs of fate, and question the law of averages.

While characterization is strong, the short 23 minutes was unfortunately insufficient to make me commiserate with the characters. After all, everything that happens is seemingly out of their hands. Life is unfair, they get the short end of the stick. Er, too bad for them? It’s not as if there was any clear attempt to get out of their rut.

Yet the mature editing warrants a nomination—strong pacing ensures that the audience is kept at bay throughout the numerous twists and turns—right up to the final scene of the suicidal daughter’s creepy smile at the camera. The gaze, a pivotal cinematic component, is well-executed. We see the stark fear, despair, anxiety, realization, and a myriad of emotions through the window of the soul. And they beguilingly connect, both with the other onscreen characters and with the audience.

This film was nominated for Best Editing at the 2nd Singapore Short Film Awards.
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