A ride to 'Eternity' - Opening Film of the 2nd Experimental Film Forum

At the recent Singapore Short Film Awards, the jury decided not to give out a prize for Best Experimental film because all the nominees did not redefine or reinvent the way they presented a film. This begs the question of what is meant by reinventing the film genre or the way film is typically made. I am looking at the 4 short films (I have not watched 'Mickey') and wondering if the judges' decision were justified. 'Peep' by Wesley Leon Aroozoo diminishes the mise-en-scene into the size of a peep-hole, making its point experientially. 'Void Deck' by Azhar Shukor splits the screen into columns and plays with transmission of actions between frames. 'Aemaer' by Loo Zihan and 'Flux' by Nigel Heng both play with forms and aesthetics, though within a conventional frame.

This Thursday night, I attended the world premiere of 'Eternity' and found the voiding of the Best Experimental Film Award quite uncalled for. There were films that discernibly pushed the boundaries of form and there were films that were just expressionistic within the conventional boundaries. My conclusion, anything that thwarts the framework of a scripted production that abides by the rule of how time, space, characters are typically presented can be considered experimental. With this, rather than plainly commenting on each of the 13 pieces in 'Eternity', I would like to dissect some of the works and ponder over how those works sought to experiment.

It can be both difficult and easy to miss Victric's sunset piece which literally documents a sunset without the use of time lapse. Through a simple exercise, it raises questions about the authenticity of film and the moving image and how time is often manipulated and shaped to drive the narrative. An action that takes 10 min can be condensed into 30 secs through the conventions of editing. Enigmatic and unapologetic, my attention fought with it through its duration and I must say ultimately, it makes it point quite nicely.

The rest of the set is broadly eclectic, though mostly well curated. Some have more of an agenda while others seek to just titillate. Ezzam Rahman's piece stands out from the rest for being unrestrained and not afraid to look like B-grade animation. Animation it is not, more like puppetry! A horde of Kens (as in Barbie's beau)is used to play homoerotic voyeurism. The dolls, given their limited limb trajectories, are engaged in sexual intimacy that looks endearing comical, while eerie at the same time. One might also begin to wonder if Ezzam's borrowed the the bedroom connotation of experimentation in trying to meet the genre.

Loo Zihan's account of a sexual encounter could be seen as the other ode to voyeurism and a much more pointed and deliberated piece. Against a blurred moving visual background and a triangle of numbers, Loo recounts an incident where he met a college professor and they decided to go on a mutual sexual exploration. The real exploration is actually on Loo in which he plays 'money boy' and explores the psyche behind 'commodifying' oneself. While disturbing, it is also gratifying (inevitably so) in the way it unleashes lurid details of the transaction between the 2 parties.

Much of the rest of the omnibus remained in my memory as a mish-mash of blurred landscapes and blotches of light, almost like a dream you could not remember. In that realm of darkness, there are occasional lucid manifestations of familiar and not so familiar things. But they all come and go, serving to titillate more than resonate. 'Where is the purpose in experimental filmmaking?' I occasionally asked myself while checking the progress of Victric's sunset. The beauty of it simply has to be in the process, the act of dismantling, re-orientating and reconnecting back the parts, in which the end result may not always satisfy or have a sense of closure. This is very much the filmmaker's own journey and it serves to feed his/her amusement and epiphanies probably as much as the audience's.

But there was one piece I was moderately entertained by - one with over-sized candles on a birthday cake. Ang Soo Koon, a Singaporean visual artist based in Berlin Germany, plants candles 'shaped like numbers' on a birthday cake as a vintage 'counting' song plays like it came from a gramaphone. The song is alluringly odd, like the piece itself, pandering to our familiarity with the birthday occasion and yet warping it with mildly anarchic visual suggestions. As seen in Soo Koon's 'Mosquitoes' and 'Xiao Fu', we are like taking a curious and slightly-twisted adult peek into a child's world. In this instance, it is one that has fed on the familiar and almost universal world of Sesame Street, as suggested by the number counting. But don't forget, some adults just can't get enough of it too.

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