Review - 'Broken Crayons' by Priscila Ang Geck Geck

‘Broken crayons’, the short film, is really one big ‘cock-tease’ that leaves you affected, disturbed and pregnant, but with thoughts. It is somehow in every director to stretch the limits of perversity and to demonstrate ideological bandwidth. But this director, Priscilla Ang, knows how to tug back her bait swiftly too. What results is a film that delightfully excites us on two levels, one on the surface narrative level, the other on a conceptual level whose picture is only complete with our own judgement of the happenings.

The film is essentially about a trio of young kids discovering sex but not sexuality. A restless old ‘Ah Kong’ sitting topless in the stuffy living room, bored by local TV, decides to open his grandson’s eyes to entertainment of a more risqué kind, raising the eyebrows of his wife and the curiosity of his granddaughters. They huddle in a dark room to watch pornography on DVDs. The grandson, ‘enlightened’ decides to put what he sees into his version of ‘child play’ and ropes in his female cousin for a trial (!)

The beauty of the film lies in the fact that the film walks a tight rope between cleverness and bad taste but always staying on the rope. Through the children’s curious dallying, the film seems to exploring the fundamentals of male-female interaction in an indirect manner. Shrewdly, Priscilla Ang, the director, plants innuendos of bullying, abuse, jealousy, sexism, pretence and I dare say polygamy, in the film, making your skin crawl at first but making you say ‘that sounds familiar’ in an after-thought.

This film must also be watched for the economy with which it delivered such a strong message about human relationships. By the term, ‘economy’, I mean the simplicity of the set-up, the dialogue, the dramatic range, narrative flow and even shots. Relying on simple, sometimes monosyllabic lines, uncomplicated facial expressions and functional shots, the film appears as an honest attempt to tell a compelling story. Of course, that is not to say the film is without complexity for the most beautifully complex ingredient in making ‘Broken Crayons’ must have been the director’s mind.

Review by Jeremy Sing

'Broken Crayons' won best Fiction at this year's Singapore Short Film Awards. 
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