Best Director pick at SIFF Silver Screen Award

Best Director

Big Feet, the film about a girl and her Olympian dream of running was a breath of fresh air among the finalist cohort because it lets its characters breathe and .... run. With her swinging limbs, her whimsical moments in the classroom, her unbridled energy when she sprinted, the little girl was very much in her element and it steals your heart for a moment. Many of the other shorts tended to fit actors into roles mandated by the script too much like a formula. At a later point of the film, she gets too competitive for her own innocent age, as influenced by her father, and it struck me that this girl is such a godsend for a director - especially her nuanced transition from friendly racer to medal chaser, without overdoing the new 'kiasu' self she had discovered. I personally thought the masterstroke of Carl Lewis opened a new narrative tangent in what would then otherwise be just another parent-child relationship play.

Band of Mischief was a bagful of emotional baggage. It begins with suicide and ends with death. In between, the characters are constantly seeking for revenge. I do like the dark irony of the Halloween dressing up to deliver close-to-real scares. The audience gets their gore fix yet the director manages to deliver it more cleverly than just giving it to you point-blank. It is layered and it plays with your expectations of whether real blood was going to shed or when it would be. I personally am not a fan a flashbacks. The director could have used a bit more strategy in his narrative flow instead of planting flashbacks at the point of the 'torturer' inching towards the school bully with his electric drill, even though the cliffhanger moment was powerful. The film was also excessive at the various set up and resolution points, which I thought the director could have done with more economy in telling us who these people are. Overall, this was a rather uneven film that packed in suspense and gore and yet romanticised it at the end. It is a bagful of gems but the director needs to decide what to dish out.

Hentak Kaki would fit in very nicely into a stage play. Two characters interacting under play-pretend kind of situation, trying to slip into truthful conversation when nobody is watching and yet slipping back into their occupational roles to cover up. In the format of a film, I thought the director failed to reinvent the banter. I applaud the actors for delivering their roles pitch perfect. The Indian detainee was a little theatrical but the Warrant Officer seemed like someone you imported out of a camp! Good acting aside and also clever in 'turning around' a counselling session, the director could have thought more beyond confines of the barracks. Let us uncover his life a bit more, go beyond the stern, reprimanding voice we are so used to hearing, observe his moments out of his army fatigues. Why should we care that he is stuck in his career? Only Singaporean men would, we all what warrant officers behave as they do.

Sisters is a film about a man about to marry a girl whose brother he had some previous dallying with. The problem with the film is that it remains just that, to illustrate the cross-affair. What made the film interesting was almost the single-handed performance of the auntie who played a 'sister'. Firmly seated into her role, she delivers her lines with gravitas and oils the drama in the film with her piercing glares and command for and of attention, played effectively to humorous effect at various points. By the way a 'sister' is one who creates 'barriers' and challenges to the marrying groom who is supposed to surmount these in order to get his bride. The choice of someone beyond the conventional age to be a 'sister' was a brilliant one though the film faltered on it being too much a one-sided tennis game. The groom and even the sulky brother could have stepped up to their roles beyond cock-teasing. If one observes carefully, all the other characters are actually evenly believable in their roles, which shows the director's seasoned hands. If only we could see that drama that ensued after the rather abrupt ending.

My choice for Best Director is a tough one between Big Feet and Sisters (and perhaps Red Veil too) but I give it to Sisters for giving us a auntie who makes sure you listen up.

Written by Jeremy Sing
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