Four Play: Singapore Shorts 2019


Organised by the Asian Film Archive, Singapore Shorts 2019 celebrates the best of Singaporean short films. Held at the Oldham Theatre during the weekends of 10-18 August 2019 and with a rescreening on 6 October 2019, the annual showcase includes a diverse selection of cinematic works from various genres that were carefully selected by a distinguished panel. SINdie had the opportunity to catch four short films from this selection.


Flexier Than You (2019), directed by Zhiyi Cao

“At the crossroads of the economic and social, one either adopts the ‘ambivalent', strategically cultivated to negotiate realities, or be subjected to a more abject condition, of schizophrenia in thrall to the logic of late capitalism. Choose your poison.”

Flexier Than You examines the socio-economic dynamic between Singaporean society and its creative industries. The short film reveals the pervasiveness of neoliberal logic within the creative industry, providing a social critique of how this flawed ethos permeates within this industry, as well as the dire repercussions that follows such a logic.

The film grapples this loaded topic in its own distinctive style, complete with commentary-esque flair, snippets of actual ‘creatives’ and a unique sense of eccentricity. Most of the film revolves primarily in the conversation between two “millennial” figures, yet it is their conversation that the loaded subject is encapsulated in an entertaining, yet thoughtful way. Flexier Than You thus makes one rethink the relations between creativity and state control, and on a larger level, the self and society, all within 18 minutes.


Still (2019), directed by Khidhir Kassim

The loss of a loved one is a heavy theme to grapple with. Despite being 4 minutes long, Still manages to capture the essence of this concept. The short film goes through a day in the life of Wife, the unnamed elderly protagonist who lives alone and works in multiple low-skilled jobs. Towards the end of the film, Wife receives hearing aidsit is revealed that she is a widow who suffers from hearing impairment⁠—and listens to old recordings of her husband’s voice as he sings to her.

In spite of its short length, the film manages to effectively portray the theme of loss and loneliness through the figure of Wife and its many stylistic choices: its desaturated tones, minimal dialogue and the moving soundtrack of Amni Musifirah’s “Kau Tak Sendiri (You’re Not Alone)” overlaying the entire short all emphasize the sense of poignancy as experienced by Wife. Still provides a succinct yet emotionally-charged narrative that beckons to the power of blissful remembrance: of how others who are long gone can continue to live in us through memories. The short film also carries a didactic tone by reminding us of how a small contribution can go a long way, as was the hearing aid that Wife received by Zakat (a form of religious charity via tithe) in the film that made all the difference for her.



Chasing Paper (2018), directed by Shoki Lin

The pursuit of academic excellence is a quintessential facet of the everyday Singaporean student's life. In Chasing Paper, this aspect is pushed to its boundaries when Hui Shu (Kelly Lim) attempts to support her daughter, Yu Ping (Nicole Lee), in her upcoming examinations, amidst the backdrop of a low-income family with a strained mother-daughter relationship. It is eventually revealed that Yu Ping, out of desperation to keep her scholarship, resorts to cheating in her exams; Hui Shu initially berates her upon this discovery. Hui Shu’s moral compass is challenged when, out of desperation to support her daughter, she surprisingly turns against her own words and helps her daughter to cheat for the upcoming major examinations.

One would expect to know more about the outcome of this momentous decision, but it is here that the compelling story arc comes to a haltthe film denies us of any proper closure thereafter, apart from some subtleties. The outcome of the examination is ambiguous, and the moral message of the film seems rather cloudy. Despite this, Chasing Paper still remains a praiseworthy story about the lengths a mother would go to for her daughter. Bolstered by exemplary acting from the cast and solid thematic concerns, this drama of a mother-daughter relationship stretched to its moral limits could be further read as a meaningful critique of families driven to desperation by social circumstances.


Bare (2018), directed by Martin Loh


Martin Loh’s Bare examines the philosophy behind naturism in Singapore. This exploration is viewed through the lenses of Richard (Khyan Kotak), who interviews two naturists to gain a better understanding of their lifestyles. The film is framed in a documentary format with surreal elements, most notably the scenes whereby we are transported into Richard’s mind, which Loh constructs to be akin to a visual chamber embodying a consistent dreamlike quality. Loh utilises these dreamlike sequences to scrutinise our conceptions of nudity through the consistent juxtaposition of colors and symbols within such sequences. Ultimately, the film serves as an engaging thought experiment in enabling viewers to rethink the role of social constructivism in our deeply embedded aversion to such conceptions of nudity.

Written by Bryson Ng

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