Reviews: Singapore Shorts '18 Day 02 (2017-2018)

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The Asian Film Archive brought back an annual film screening of Singapore Shorts this year, reigniting a yearly tradition started by the National Museum. Singapore Shorts has been an important first platform for filmmakers like Boo Junfeng, Kirsten Tan, Anthony Chen and many others to showcase their early works to the public. We are glad this series is back and here are some bullet reviews of this year's selection. Some of these films are available on Viddsee. Or you may catch them in the immediate future at a screening event in town.

Ca$h
Ca$h was an easy crowd-pleaser and a highly-accessible film as it dealt with the issues of work loyalty, as well as technological invasions through comedy-drama elements. In Singapore where we pride ourselves as a “smart nation” with initiatives to go cashless (for example), it is often the case that service workers do not have their say in the way businesses utilise them.  Each of the characters at Jin Jin Supermarket had depth of background, with each struggling with the decisions they may not have had good control over. And these complexities were all captured within the film's succinct 10 minutes.

Row (2018)


Amanda Tan captures in Row the last surviving traditional fishermen in Singapore through fisherman Nasir Basir. The film captures a timely everyday process that is not part of the conventional Singaporean circa 2018, due to rapid urbanisation. Nasir works at odd hours and also has to take the ferry out to sea every day for putting the traps to capture the fish. Amanda’s film shows Nasir’s hard dedication and quiet passion, as well as a cultural aspect of Singapore that will die off one day.


Away

The movie Away, shot in a hotel room and in black-and-white, takes a very intense continuous shot of the unnamed protagonist who has to deal with loved ones being unwell while she is overseas. The intensity of how emotions were dealt with in that small tight space was captured well. According to the director and producer, Tang Kang Sheng, Away was short while in the middle of another film shoot, and it was an impromptu decision. That in-the-moment quality may have infused the film in some ways.

Between Pudukkottai & Singapore – Poems by N Rengarajan. (2017)


Produced in 2017 by Vishal Daranomel, this film shows a construction worker, N Rengarajan, and his poems depicting about the journey in his migrant life in Singapore and the many facets of issues he faced. Rengarajan was among many migrant workers who participated in the first Migrants Workers Poetry Competition in 2014. Through the film, and its lyrical take on the worker's situation, we are let in on their dreams and aspirations, and are reminded that poetry flourishes well in pain.

Melodi
This short film portrays a lonely and awkward young boy who is infatuated with his neighbour, a young Indonesian helper who works for an elderly wheelchair-bound man. The film director. Michael Kam, explores the lack of a female figure in the boy's life with a single father. The maid’s entry into his life fuels his infatuation initially perhaps due to this absence. Subsequently, the story delves into the boy’s righteousness for her as well, attempting to break her from the abuse of the neighbour who is the maid’s employer. Overall, a sensitive film with a healthy dose of surprises, and an interesting take on his relationships with the different characters.

Blue in D-Flat Major (2018)
Similar to stories you hear about evacuation from disasters, Blue in D-Flat Major brings to light a mother, Julia’s worry for her children: a young adult woman, and a school boy. The young adult woman takes on a very mature adult role in the story, acting as a guardian for her young brother. These types of relationships are normally seen as outliers in society, but the chemistry between the brother and sister as guider and the younger figure are important to note here. The elder sister and Julia act more as parents rather than mother and daughter. The character with the biggest role, the younger brother, is angry at how the family has to keep wasting time when nothing is happening and felt the family did not care as much when their family dog was ill and passed away. His character helps pick out these fallacies from what we deem as priorities and highlights that children can see something we adults don't.

Between Us Two (2017)


A solemn film depicting a gay man’s relationship with his mother who succumbed to cancer and later died. He narrates through this animated sketch about his journey with his mother through the times of supporting the decision in his same-sex relationship to when he yearned to get rid of the tumour in her body. Director Tan Wei Keong employs an effective colour palette of black (signifying bleakness) dotted by contrasting colours denoting significant aspects of the man’s life. Reviews by Varun Naidu Varun Naidu, 26, recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree majoring in Communication and Media from The University of Queensland in Australia. His passions include photography, reading, writing, long bus rides, and environment-friendly habits.  He also likes indie music, great food, and iced bubble tea – the BYO bottle way.

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