Wednesday, August 29, 2007

7th Asian Film Symposium

The Asian Film Symposium is back! Into its 7th edition, it runs from 6 to 10 September this year, which seems to be advantageous for working folks like myself, nestling within an extended weekend (Thu-Mon). The previous 2 editions (if I recall correctly) have activities mostly during the weekdays, and I only managed to catch up with, unfortunately, one event per year.

Presented by The Substation Moving Images, the Symposium offers a great number of short films from around the region, including Singapore, as well as featuring panel discussions on film and the film industry. Tickets to the panel discussions are free (upon registration), while the ticket prices for films are usually at concessionary rates already. What more, there's also the presence of the filmmakers themselves, together with the curators and programmers for the various short film features, to make their respective sessions unforgettable with up close and personal Q&A sessions after each screening.

For those who can't get enough of short films (especially after the recent Singapore Short Cuts, into its last week), why not broaden our horizons to what's available out there from Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, and Indonesia? Best yet, as the Opening Film, the much awaited screening of Tan Chui Mui's award winning film Love Conquers All finally hits our shores (tickets are already on sale at the Cathay website)! And local documentary Remember Chek Jawa closes the Sympsosium on 10th September.

The activities take place at the Substation Theatre, and the Picturehouse. Click on this link for ticketing details, film synopsis, schedule of the film panel discussions, and to find out who'll be making an appearance! I'll be there, and I hope to see you there too!


Shaw Organisation is proud to present two of the most anticipated movies in the later part of year 2007 in Singapore: BALLS OF FURY and RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION, which star the cast of the wildly popular NBC Drama Series “HEROES”, Masi Oka and Ali Larter.

Masi Oka made a guest appearance in the upcoming action comedy, BALLS OF FURY as a bathroom attendant, Jeff. His surprise appearance in the latest promotional trailer of the movie has generated anticipation and active discussions about him in the world wide web forums. Masi Oka is starring in “HEROES” as Hiro Nakamura, a Japanese office worker who can bend the space-time continuum.

Ali Larter starred in the latest Resident Evil: Extinction, the all-out action and horror third and final film in the $100 million Resident Evil trilogy. She plays Claire Redfield character who is the leader of convoy making its way across the Nevada desert, in search of the remaining uninfected survivors. Ali Larter currently stars in HEROES as Niki Sanders, a single mother who struggles to support her exceptionally gifted young son's private school education and whose mirror image has a secret.

To escalate the wild craze of the “HEROES” further, the “HEROES” cast team will be coming down to Singapore on Aug 31st at Vivo City, as part of their HEROES WORLD TOUR as part of their promotional campaign for their international premiere. Both Ali Larter and Masi Oka will be part of the world tour team. For more information on the “HEROES” World Tour, please visit the website or

Shaw Organisation is NOT the organizer nor publicist for the mentioned tour.

Monday, August 27, 2007


The two most iconic monsters of all-time, ALIENS VS PREDATOR 2 will return this Christmas. Savour the first taste of the spectacular violence and action in this latest trailer here! Not for the faint-heartened....

Golden Village is the First Local Cinema to Personalize Movie-Going Experience

Come September 1st, Golden Village will launch a new personalized loyalty programme - Golden Village Movie Club (GV Movie Club). The movie club membership is offered free to everyone who signs up at and aims to revolutionize cinema going in Singapore with customized options for every member and guaranteed benefits upon joining.

GV Movie Club personalizes and enhances each patron’s movie-going experience. Movie-watching is taken to a personal level with the aid of GV’s customer relationship management program. Each individual is rewarded with treats specific to his or her individual movie preferences.

“The Golden Village Movie Club is the club for all movie-goers in Singapore. As market leader, Golden Village is excited to take the lead in customizing and personalizing our product and service offerings based on members’ tastes and preferences. If a Golden Village Movie Club member’s favourite location is GV Marina and he or she likes science-fiction movies, for instance, we’ll do lots of exciting sci-fi related programmes for that member at that site”, said Mr. Kenneth Tan, Managing Director, Golden Village Multiplex.

GV Movie Club is an easy to apply, easy to use loyalty programme. Members can sign up online at from 1st September and they can collect their membership card at any 9 GV locations the following day after registration.

Benefits of Golden Village Movie Club
-$6.50 ticket price for members on every Tuesday for all locations;
-Birthday treat of ‘Buy-One-Get-One Free Standard movie ticket’ on actual birth date;
-Priority seat selection available online for members;
-Members can enjoy 1 popcorn at $5 and get 1 free 16 oz Coke (worth $2);
-Waiver of SMS confirmation fee (worth S$0.20 each) for online booking;
-Top Spenders Rewards;
-Industry related privileges: Up close & personal with movie stars, exclusive invitation to gala premieres, press conference, film talks, behind the scenes set tours;
-Monthly Members Draw, promotions, for members only;
-Special Candy Bar discounts for members;
-Promotional merchant benefits exclusive to members;
-Plus additional “Surprise & Delight” rewards.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

4th Singapore Short Cuts - 3rd Week Roundup

The 3rd week of this year's edition of the Singapore Short Cuts saw a retrospective on Rajendra Gour, arguably a pioneer of independently-made Singapore short films, and an award winning one too. Having to open his showcase, Rajendra shared that he had started to make films when he was 25 years old, back in 1965, and advised that so long any film is made with spirit and soul, they will last the passage of time. And looking at the 4 short films presented, I couldn't agree more.

A Labour of Love - The Housewife

I liked this film a lot, in that Rajendra had a keen eye on issues that were raised in his short, issues which still ring true to this day. The short is as the title says, as we follow a housewife's routine, the daily, menial tasks of taking care of the home, as well as the children. While highlighting challenges faced, it also had a very heartwarming observation on the children of the household, with many earnest scenes on interaction, and you can really feel the love permeating through.

There were also a couple of scenes that set the era - the trishaw, and the outdoor street market, but one thing's for sure, the issues of the housewife faced in those days, are almost similar to the ones faced today. Time and again you do have the spotlight set on discussing how can one quantify, in monetary terms, the value that housewives contribute to society and economy, and perhaps, this short allowed for the reminder that they are important in "shaping the future generation", and that "her work must be appreciated".

My Child My Child

Sort of a quasi-sequel to A Labour of Love, My Child My Child specifically echoes the love of a mother for her child, as well as her hopes and even fears of the fact that her child might one day cast her aside. Like A Labour of Love, My Child My Child also had this heartwarming quality in it, and contains some scenes which were from the former as well, reused over here. Those who have been to the Haw Par Villa / Tiger Balm Gardens will find it a blast to see it depicted here in the short, especially those morbid, grotesque looking statues!


This is an experimental short, which featured some nifty effects and some extreme closeups of the eye. The "all seeing" eye explores pain and suffering, and alas, as Rajendra shared later during the Q&A, much of this short had already succumbed to deterioration brought about by time.

Sunshine Singapore

If the audience hadn't gotten enough of the scenes of Singapore of old, then Sunshine Singapore was the short worth waiting for. Playing like a musical montage piece, this short deserves to be watched on repeat for scenes that are no longer, and as I mentioned earlier, a visual treat for any historians or those born here in the last 20 years, to see how Singapore was once like. The music is catchy too, having this hypnotic beat to it.


LtoR: Karen (from Asian Film Archive), Zhang Wenjie, Rajendra Gour, Kristin Saw

Apparently almost every member of the audience who turned up today, had also decided to sit through the Q&A session after the screening. I suppose many were naturally curious about the shorts, and would like to learn more about them from Rajendra himself.

Zhang Wenjie: This is possibly the first time all 4 of Rajendra's shorts have been shown in a retrospective. What was the feeling like having watched them in front of an audience after more than 40 years?
Rajendra: I've never imagined this, given it's the first time they're shown in Singapore. I'm more than happy. Thank you.

Wenjie: Could you share how you first started making films independently. With the many filmmakers making their films now versus in the 60s, what was the environment of the time like?
Rajendra: In December 1964, I bought a small Bolex camera, which cost me 2 months salary. I could afford it because I was a bachelor - I could eat as I liked, and sleep wherever I liked, with all my money going into film! My first film was called "Mr Tender Heart", however the film is not in good condition now and cannot be projected. It's shot in black and white, with very little dialogue, and ran about 28 minutes. I acted as a poet in the film, to show the world as it is, and I used animal sounds to show people's jealousness, frustration and anger. All the animal sounds were produced by mouth by myself, and I wished I can produce them now for you!

I worked with RTS (Radio and Television Singapore) in the news department as senior film editor, and doing the news at that time, I was feeling bored. So I thought about filmmaking, and had 2 options. The first was to go to the USA to join the New York Film Institute to do my Masters, but it cost a lot of money. So the second option was, why not make my own films and learn from my own mistakes? I had many crazy, unconventional ideas, and dreams.

My second film was Eyes, and the original cut was 20 minutes long. I couldn't save all the footage. It was recorded with no dialogue, so that you can form your own interpretation. I had only one normal lens, and it was a great challenge making the film. It was difficult to keep the camera in focus, and I even tried using a magnifying glass to make the eye look bigger! I had a lot of fun, and had used my caretaker's eyes as they were very big! There were no effects done in the lab, except for one scene of superimposition, and one black and white shot. All other superimposition were done on camera, so you can imagine I had to take the shot, roll the film back, expose the film again and so on. I did too many takes, and it was hard to calculate. By fluke, I got about 70% of what I wanted. The part where the face was cracking, I had gone to a photo studio, and used an aluminum plate. I bent the plate at different angles to achieve the shots, and married them. Back then you had to improvise a lot, but now you have computers and you can do it. However I don't feel the creativity that's coming from the heart. For the suicide shot, it was filmed at Selegie House. I took the camera and ran 11 floors *to the chuckles of the audience* - the energy comes from enthusiasm and passion.

The other challenge was how to show the man falling 10/11 floors. I had a camera box, made a hole in it, and devised a pulley. My friend ran with the rope, but instead of having the camera falling down, it went round! I was initially a little disappointed with the result, but maybe for a man falling down, he sees it that way! *chuckles* I had a one to two man crew accompanying me for Eyes. I liked Eyes, as it was from the heart, and from the mind.

The third movie I made was Sunshine Singapore. It was made over a number of years as I had to shoot sunrises. Most mornings were cloudy or rainy, but I managed to get some nice sunrise and sunsets. I had the music in my mind, and it was from the rhythm of the camera sway. I was actually warned by my wife not to stare at the shots as the sun rays were going into my eyes. The version you've seen today was from VHS, as the original film still needs money to restore. The shot of the military band was to show the regimental nature of Singaporeans, while the montage of the foreign banks was my imagining of the future of Singapore. My funds for the film got exhausted, because I got married! *chuckles*

One person had to work, while the other had to take care of the family, and the money I made went to family. Salaries for graduates at the time was about S#765, and I had to temporarily stop making films. I had a smart ploy though, and that was to make a film about the family. At the back of my mind was the story, and I had to convince my wife to be in it, and there was actually no need to act. There was no lighting, and I had only the normal lens. But I had the perfect setting. It took 5 years to make My Child My Child, based on things I see happening in the house, so there wasn't a real need to think of a plot. I have beautiful stories out of filming my family, and I did 2 films out of that.

I had wondered how to screen my films. You can only show your films to friends twice, and they'll tell you "that's enough"! *chuckles* I read Sight and Sound magazine, and researched a list of film festivals to send my films to. It was not easy as I had to send them by air, and it cost a lot of money. But my intention to send them was not to win awards, but I had done so, so that someone else can see my films. A Labour of Love - The Housewife, won a bronze medal at an American film festival, and BBC bought the rights to show My Child My Child. I got encouraged and with some money, I was tempted to make another film. I still have the original 16mm films, and if archived and projected, the colours will definitely turn out nicer.

Wenjie (to Karen): Perhaps you would like to talk about how you came across Raj's films?
Karen: Raj came to the Asian Film Archive as a volunteer, and had helped in some school talks. It was then we found out about his 16mm films. In the archival process, films have to be cleaned so that we can assess the quality of the film. Colour would have faded and there would be scratches, but there's also the "Vinegar Syndrome", where because of our climate, the film would emit a scent and would shrink the films, making them brittle. We can slow down the decay, but can't eliminate it. The cost of restoring about 1000 feet of a print, will cost about S$4-5K. We're hoping that by next year, we would have one print restored.

Karen (to Raj): What advice would you give to future filmmakers about preserving their films for another generation?
Raj: It's always good to keep the films, preserve them, and store them properly. You can look back at how life was then, the culture and feeling of the times, improvements, and if we are going in the right direction.

Q (to Raj): Are you still making films?
Raj: Yes, I'm making a lot of films in my mind and heart. I've lots of stories to tell, but now I don't want to put my own money to make them. I'm looking for sponsors, and I'm planning to make 2 films. I'm trying to get finances. One is about old age people, and the other about women. Women hhave been a pet subject of mine, because there's a of emotions about their lives and how it changed over the last 40 years. In the last 2 to 3 years, I've made documentaries for others.

Q: What was the indie film scene like in the 60s and 70s?
Raj: There was none as far as I can recall, for experimental films. There were many amateur filmmakers making 8mm films, but not on this scale.

Q: Did the awards make any impact in Singapore?
Raj: Unfortunately the movies were not appreciated in Singapore. Nobody bothers, unlike today, where you can get finances, or people to watch them. Sunshine Singapore was rejected by RTS at the time, but probably because back then, society was cautious about showing anything of this nature because of nation building.

Q: How do you reflect making films to your own narrative versus someone else's?
Raj: The main difference, you feel it more for your own, from the heart.

Wenjie then introduced Raj's son Sanjay, who was also in the audience.
Wenjie: For those who don't know, Sanjay was the little boy in Raj's films. How do you feel, watching yourself on the big screen now?
Sanjay: I feel the same; I've seen the films many times, and I guess it's better to recall those moments on film rather than from still photographs.

Photo Credits: Richard Lim


Next week will be the final week of this year's edition of the Singapore Short Cuts. Do remember to grab your ticket early, as we have Anthony Chen's Cannes Special Mention film Ah Ma, as well as 2 short films from each director of Solos - Loo Zihan and Kan Lume, and Boo Junfeng's Katong Fugue. See you next Saturday!


Burbank, CA - August 22, 2007 -- Disney's High School Musical 2 soundtrack rewrites chart history this week with its spectacular debutat No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart, based on sales of 615,000 copies, the second highest one-week total for an album this year.

In its first week, it also certified Gold in Ireland, the UK, Canada,Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia.

The feat comes just five days after the premiere of Disney Channel's Original Movie High School Musical 2 made history as the most-watched basic cable telecast of all time among Total Viewers (17.2 millionstrong) as well as the most-watched TV telecast ever in Kids 6-11, and most-watched entertainment telecast ever in Tweens 9-14. Impressively,High School Musical 2 was TV's most-watched Friday telecast in more than5 years and was the #1 telecast of the week in Total Viewers across all TV.

Last year, the soundtrack to the first High School Musical TV movie spent two non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 on The Billboard 200, and was the first television movie soundtrack to reach the top spot. High School Musical 2 goes its predecessor one better by becoming the firsttelevision soundtrack to ever debut at No. 1. The soundtrack also enters three other Billboard charts at No. 1: Top Soundtrack Albums, Top Kid Audio, and Top Digital Albums.

High School Musical 2 has a lot to live up to, and is proving more than equal to the task. The quadruple-platinum first soundtrack was the best-selling album of 2006 according to Nielsen SoundScan, and the 615,000 copies old of High School Musical 2 in its first week indicatethis second soundtrack is a leading candidate to be the best-selling album of 2007, and surpass the quadruple-platinum status of the earlier CD. In its first week, High School Musical 2 has shipped double platinum; the first soundtrack went double-platinum in just under three months. The first High School Musical soundtrack has sold seven million copiesworldwide, and was ranked the #1 top selling album of 2006 by theInternational Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI representsthe recording industry worldwide.)

High School Musical premieres on Disney Channel Asia (Ch 33) Sept 9 at 7.30pm.

Read our review of High School Musical 2 here.

Trailer Time!

The Last Winter

In the Arctic region of Northern Alaska, an oil company's advance team struggles to establish a drilling base that will forever alter the pristine land. After one team member is found dead, a disorientation slowly claims the sanity of the others as each of them succumbs to a mysterious fear.

The Hunting Party

A young journalist (Eisenberg), a seasoned cameraman (Howard) and a discredited journalist (Gere) embark on an unauthorized mission to find the no. 1 war criminal in Bosnia; they find themselves in serious jeopardy when they are mistaken as a CIA hit squad and their target decides to come after them

The Nines

A troubled actor, a television show runner, and an acclaimed videogame designer find their lives intertwining in mysterious and unsettling ways.

The Signal

A horror film told in three parts from three perspectives, in which a mysterious transmission which invades every cell phone, radio and TV, turing people into killers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

InnoForm Media presents 2 latest Korean Drama - Famous Princesses and Surgeon Bong Dal- Hee

Surgeon Bong Dal-hee is a highly acclaimed medical drama directed by Kim Hyeong Sik, winner of Best New Director in the 43rd Baeksang Awards. The drama tells the story of how Surgeon Bong Dal-hee was accepted for residency at a general hospital in Seoul due to a shortfall of applicants. Although she works harder than any other doctors, she is seen as an outcast in the hospital due to her humble background. Facing harsh criticism from her peers and senior heart specialist, Dr. An Jung-keun, Dal-hee manages to overcome their prejudices and gains the respect of the other fellow doctors.

During her stint in the hospital, An Jung-keun and Dal-hee grew fond of each other. However, things get complicated as senior doctor Lee Gun-Wook also fall for Dal-hee.

All seems well until Dal-hee's health deteriorates and she collapses while tending to a patient.

Starring: Lee Yo-won / Lee Bum-soo (Most Popular Award (TV category) in the 43rd Baeksang Awards) / Oh Yoon-ah/ Kim Min-joon

Release Date: VCD available now/ DVD - September (TBC)

Rating: PG

Languages and Subtitles:
VCD: In Korean/ Mandarin Dialogue with Chinese subtitles. (18 Episodes/ 18 VCD)
DVD: In Korean/ Mandarin Dialogue with Chinese/ English subtitles (18 Episodes/ 7 DVD)
R.R.P: VCD: $36.90 / DVD $56.90
Extras: DVD Bonus features (In Korean without subtitles) TV Specials include Making Of, Interviews, NG Scenes & Highlights.

KBS highest rating Korean drama of the year Famous Princess is a humorous drama that depicts the real-life stories of today's modern families.

The story line is centered round the four daughters of Na Yangal, a retired military officer who now works as a security guard of an apartment complex with his wife Kyung Myung-Ja.

The life of the oldest sister, Deok-chil, whose unloving husband divorces her, shows problems facing remarried couples. The upbeat and confident second sister, Seol-chil, plays the role of a ¡®son¡¯ to her parents and ends up fighting for love against her younger sister, the pretty but selfish Mi-chil is the family's troublemaker. Finally, the youngest of the sisters, Jong-chil, becomes pregnant and marries her boyfriend at a tender age, facing numerous conflicts with her in-laws.

Immerse in this heart warming family drama that will elicit both laughter and tears.

Starring: Lee Tae-ran/ Choi Jeong-won / Kim Hye-seon / Ko Ju-won Park Hae-jin (Best New Actor (TV category) in the 43rd Baeksang Awards)

Release Date: Vol 1 VCD available now.

Rating: PG

Languages and Subtitles:
VCD: In Korean/ Mandarin Dialogue with Chinese subtitles.
R.R.P: VCD Vol 1 : $39.90 (20 Episodes/ 20 VCD) Total of 80 episodes.

Purchase the above products and win attractive prizes by participating in the Korean Kraze Lucky Draw, Hurry now and you might be a lucky winner in our first monthly draw held in August! Refer to for more details.

SECRET Giveaway!

Cathay-Keris Films are pleased to announce that SECRET has scored SGD$1 million at the box office in Singapore. They are also giving out a set of collectible movie postcards with every pair of 'Secret' tickets purchased at all Cathay Cineplexes from Thursday 30 August.

Our SECRET movie review and Singapore's Gala Coverage

Monday, August 20, 2007

Southeast Asian Digital Cinema - Filmless Films in the Philippines

Southeast Asian Digital Cinema commences with screenings for its opening series featuring Khavn de la Cruz of Filmless Films in the Philippines. Screenings are held at our partnering schools who will open their doors to members of the public, acting as cinema chains with tickets priced at a dollar each. Their students run these chains based on the Asian Film ArchiveĆ¢€™s Cineodeon model. The Filmless Films series also features a special film concert with Khavn and his band, The Brockas, performing live to his silent feature film Squatterpunk.

Film Programme

Squatterpunk Khavn de la Cruz / Philippines / 2007 / 79 min
Set in the slums of Manila where law enforcement is rare, Squatterpunk chronicles the punk lifestyles of the youth as they scavenge the garbage beach for a living while still managing to play around. A film that casts a tenderly poetic eye at the squalor of Philippine society.

Small Ali Khavn de la Cruz / Philippines / 2005 / 8 min
Due to his bad crying habit, Small Ali always loses his fight with Mad Cow, the paperweight boxing champ. Fortunately, he saw an ad of Klinika Lakrima which promises to remove tears through a surgical operation.

Our Daily Bread Khavn de la Cruz / Philippines / 2006 / 5 min
Every night, a family repeats the same actions of collecting, selling and eating garbage. A short documentary on how one family lives out each day to earn their daily bread and how one man’s trash is literally transformed into this family’s treasure.

Lala at Tsinelas “Can & Slippers” Khavn de la Cruz / Philippines / 2005 / 2 min
A young boy from the Manila slums plays football with a can of Coke as his soccerball and a pair of slippers as his soccer shoes. When he finishes by shooting a goal at a rubbish dump, the camera pans out to show us he has only one leg and is moving around on crutches.

Screening Listings

Hwa Chong Institution (High School)
3pm - 5pm : $1
Hwa Chong Institution (College)
6pm – 8pm : $1

Hwa Chong Institution (College)
7pm – 9pm : $1

Hwa Chong Institution (College)
7pm – 9pm : $1
Jurong Junior College
7pm – 9.30pm : $1
Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore
4pm – 8pm : $1
8pm – 10pm* : $1

* Squatterpunk Film Concert

Please visit the Southeast Asian Digital Cinema Official Website ( for updates on screening listings and other news. All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the film group in focus.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

4th Singapore Short Cuts - 2nd Week Roundup

Playing to a full house, this week's selection seemed to veer more into the experimental and arthouse, giving host to plenty of diverse questions during the Q&A Session after the screening.

Wrong Turn - Charles Lim
This is a visually beautiful film. The jungle never looked so nice, and so real, and what more, the soundtrack/effects for the film was performed live. Watching the movie, the first thought that came to mind was, this could be a localised version of JJ Abrams' Lost, where you see a host of characters, from a schoolboy to a security guard, looking perplexed, and testing the area they're stuck in for a communications signal. Slowly they realize they only have one another to count on, to survive in that strange environment, coupled with that parting end shot.

Tracks - Gavin Lim
This short had recognizable actors in Yeo Yann Yann and Timothy Nga, who also paired up as a couple for a local movie last year in The High Cost of Living. It's a challenge to film inside an MRT carriage, because you know that sound will definitely be an issue, especially when the film is dialogue-laden. Some clues that the story's something surreal, include that perpetually long MRT ride - arrivals at stations happen every few minutes, but this one made it look like it's a train ride from Singapore to KL. Continuity issues aside, the plot twist was charging at you at high speed, and was something waiting to happen.

superDONG - Pok Yue Weng
Part of the official selection in Director's Fortnight of the 60e Cannes Film Festival this year, superDONG was one of the shorts shown during the media preview. Animation and humour usually go down well with audiences, and it is no doubt that despite its short duration, this was one that could be easily enjoyed.

Fonzi - Kirsten Tan
Shot in black and white, Fonzi is the modern day Pinnochio, believing that she has a real family in the real world, before being challenged on those beliefs. It's a film on existentialism, but one which I thought could have been shortened a fair bit given that some scenes were repetitive. Had a bit of a creepy feel to it, especially when some probing questions were asked.

Take Me Home aka I Saw Jesus - Gozde and Russel Zehnder
The first thing that strikes is that it's on 8mm, and the soft focus made it difficult to folllow. Telling the story of select individuals, I found it difficult to connect with the characters, and didn't really enjoy the story. Technically the filmmakers have set out to achieve what they wanted, but I think using yesterday's technology for an audience today could be somewhat trying if the story didn't engage.

LtoR: Charles Lim, Zhang Wenjie, Kirsten Tan, Gavin Lim, Gozde Zehnder, Russel Zehnder, Pok Yue Wen, Kristin Saw

All the directors for this week's edition were on hand today for a Q&A session after the screening - Wrong Turn's Charles Lim, Tracks' Gavin Lim, superDONG's Pok Yue Weng, Kirsten Tan for Fonzi, and Gozde and Russel Zehnder for Take me Home aka I Saw Jesus. Both Zhang Wenjie from the National Museum and Kristin Saw from Substation were on hand to moderate the panel. As always, given the content of discussion, this session recap below contains spoilers for those who have yet to watch them.

Kristin: Perhaps we can begin with the filmmakers introducing themselves and sharing the background behind their films?
Yue Weng: I had this idea for a very long time, and finally put together a script which was submitted to the Digital Film Fiesta.
Russel: It was a combination of a few things. Mainly I wanted to go back to the house I grew up in, and see how different it is now.
Gozde: We wanted to explore the connection to music and long scenes, and make a whole short film using 8mm, so thats why we used the medium.
Gavin: Tracks was part of a project to put together some short films from around the region about different subway systems, and I was the one who did the piece for Singapore.
Kirsten: Fonzi was my graduation project in my polytechnic days. I was reading up a lot of books on existence and consciousness, and had watched a lot of films which had influenced Fonzi.
Charles: I am from a visual arts background, and Wrong Turn was my cathartic reaction. I'm interested in using visuals but the film is quite brainless actually *chuckle* My wife came out with the story, and I thought it was a chance to collaborate with my wife. It was shot with a still camera, and I tortured the actors into moving very slowly.

Q (for Gozde and Russel): Was it a deliberate decision to film in 8mm?
Russel: We wanted to try filming with 8mm, and if shot on DV, it would be emotionally different.
Gozde: Yes, 8mm gives a feeling of timelessness and a melancholic texture.
Russel: The feel of 8mm film is different. We deliberately made it soft focus, grainy, and the colours were saturated. We were working on the story for a while, approximately a year, before shooting it on film.

Q (from Wenjie to Kirsten): You mentioned that you read a lot of books, and watched films which had inspired you. Could you share what they were?
Kirsten: The script was developed first, then came the black and white film concept, with visual references from movies by Fellini. I like and am very fond of his 8 1/2. When watching his films, I would pause for lighting references. The original shooting format had been film, before the lack of budget meant finishing it on DV.

Q: What was the inspiration for superDONG?
Yue Weng: For those who know me, I spend a lot of time in the toilet! I had actually recced a lot of places for some of those graphics.
Wenjie: Did you actually draw some of those graffiti yourself?
*Laughter all round*

Q: Are there any specific message in your film? And Gavin, how did you manage to have an entire MRT carriage to shoot in?
Gavin: Shooting in the MRT means you have to pay. Thankfully we got a grant from SFC, and everything went into the rental. The script was changed a lot, and we had only 4 hours to shoot. Most of the shots that you see, were not inside those 4 hours. So we did have to film on the run, and were actually caught on the last take. My crew were obviously younger than me, so my reasoning "I'm a film student" obviously did not fly. I've done commercials and short films, but this was the most difficult of them all. For my third short Tracks, I wanted to go back to just having dialogue and good actors. And zero dialogue recorded on the train could be used. I also wanted to do something serious, about haunting. You know, when you lose a dear one and how after three days they will come and visit you, and haunt when you can't let go. It was shot with ambiguity, and the real message is about letting go.
Russel: Sorry, unfortunately there's no message for mine. We wanted to get feeling and emotion across, and the story wasn't the main attraction and focus.
Yue Weng: No message in mine too, just wanted to tell a story.
Kirsten: These kind of questions are quite scary. Any discussion into Fonzi will be very long, especially for the last shot of the film, which to some means running to freedom, and to others, never escaping.
Charles: I wanted to create a situation where I could play. I was watching a number of silent films on YouTube, and wanted to make something for an audience to feedback and enjoy.

Q: The shorts today explored visuals and effects. Were they films whose focus is on form rather than on content?
Charles: I guess some audiences don't know how to react to video art. The film was screened in some festivals overseas, and some had actually stood up and danced, leaving the organizers quite perplexed and didn't know how to react.
Kirsten: For myself, I focused too much on form, and felt that I lost track of the basics of film and was in a black hole for a while. I'm still experimenting, but I think they can be complimentary and can go together.
Gavin: Tracks was minimal on form. I have to apologize that the transfer was done quite badly as you can see, and I actually tried not to do anything fanciful visually, except for that tangerine-green colour that my DP hated.
Gozde: We tried to tell the story visually, but this is our take, and the sharing of our story in this way.
Russel: Filming using Super8 is going back to basics, and save for 2 shots on a tripod, everything was handheld. We had 2 cameras, one for indoors and one for outdoor shots, and had a soundman always around to record sounds on a separate DV cam.
Yue Weng: The form is the content, and without visual effects, it wouldn't work.
Charles: Coming from a visual arts background, and with the advent of reality in reality TV, it does make some wonder if something being done too beautifully, is deemed as dishonest?

Q: How big is your production crew, and how large was your budget?
Charles: We had 3 guys each time on the set, and 2 using the reflectors. The budget was S$3K.
Kirsten: I had 11 to 12 people on set, and the equipment is sponsored by the school. We had a S$10K budget from SFC.
Gavin: The crew was about 4 to 5 persons, and we got a grant from the SFC.
Gozde: The budget was S$2.5K and all went into the Super8 film, processing and payment to the 5 to 6 crew.
Yue Weng: I had a 4 to 5 man crew and it was shot in one night.

Q (for Take me Home): I notice that in your credits you had a Festival Coordinator?
Gozde: Yes, the specific role is to fill up forms, finalizing copies, things that you need to prepare for the festivals. It's really hard work.

Q (for Gavin): Does your film contain plenty of improvisation, or does it follow closely to the script? It reminded me of Wong Kar-wai films.
Gavin: This was one of my hardest productions. It's scripted entirely, but might have changed a little during the delivery of lines. What was in the final cut had about 40% edited out, and we had little time, so we didn't manage to rehearse as much as I would have liked to. During the shoot we had peope gawking at the actors, so it's not an ideal situation. And actually I tried hard not to be very "Wong Kar-wai".

Q (for Yue Weng): The film had travelled to Cannes, and what was the interaction and reaction like from the French audience?
Yue Weng: The French definitely saw superDONG differently, and are more interested in the actors than the animation. They said the characters were interesting, quirky, weird and resonated with them.

Q: If something is scripted, will it come across as too formal, and sometimes improvisation may be a tool to bring across realism?
Gavin: I'm a big fan of improvisation.
Kirsten: Personally, improvisation is very, very useful. If over-rehearsed, a line in itself is never a line, and improvisation helps to get behind those scripted lines.
Charles: The music you heard for my short film, it's improvisation all the way, each time it's different.
Gozde: There's not much talking in my film, and we didn't use actors but casted those whom we think look interesting. It depends on how you want to do it.
Russel: We actually improvised a lot on the set. The script was for grant purposes! *chuckles* However it's important though, as the script is there to serve as a guide. But once you see how the actors move in the space, ideas will start to flow.
Yue Weng: superDONG was storyboarded, which is quite standard for animation, and it's rather action-specific.

Q: Describe your film in one word.
Charles: Play.
Gavin: Ah?!
Gozde: Melancholy.
Russel: Home.
Yue Weng: SeX?!
Kirsten: In festivals, the more common words used to describe Fonzi include Alienation, Isolation, and Trapped. It's too difficult, but I would use the word Chessboard.

Q (for Charles): Do you think your short is cinema?
Charles: I'm questioning cinema, how we can look, and relook it.

Q (by Wenjie): As always, to wrap up, we usually ask what's your next project?
Charles: I'm working on sea stories.
Kirsten: I'm doing a short film in Thailand, where I am based now.
Gavin: I just finished shooting "Bastard-Born Under a Bad Star", and it should be completed in the next few weeks.
Gozde: A black and white short film.
Russel: Holiday! *chuckles*
Yue Weng: I'm working on an animated series, not on superDONG, but on another subject.

Photo Credits: Richard Lim


The 4th Singapore Short Cuts continues next Saturday, with a retrospective session featuring the shorts of Rajendra Gour. Do come and check out what is possibly the first Singapore anti-war film, and if you're curious how Singapore circa 60s and 70s looked and sounded like, then you definitely won't want to miss the next session! See you there!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

4th Singapore Short Cuts - 1st Week Roundup

The Singapore Short Cuts is fast becoming a popular fixture in the local film calendar, with the (free) tickets for today's session reported being snapped up within 3 hours on the Monday of ticket release. Having seen the preview almost two weeks ago, the wait for the festival is finally over, and today's selection of 5 shorts, while seemingly all being set in and around the HDB flat (or have scenes in them), they couldn't be more different from one another.
LtoR: Jacen Tan, Tay Bee Pin, Sun Koh, Ryan Tan, Zhang Wenjie

Present today for the Q&A session after the screening of the shorts were Jacen Tan, director of Zo Gang, Tay Bee Pin, producer of Flat Dreams, Sun Koh, director of Bedroom Dancing, and Ryan Tan, director of Yesterday's Plan. No representatives from A Suicide Symphony was present unfortunately.

Zhang Wenjie (Moderator): Maybe you can introduce yourselves, and tell us how your film was made, and how it all started?
Ryan: Mine was a short film project in school. It's a personal film for me, and and I actually casted my real mother in it. I wanted to capture how for some of us, everything in life is monotonous, so the film was shot in a straightforward manner, in 1 take.
Sun: I made the "banging" film. It's based on a true story, and the film is my reaction to that story.
Bee Pin: This is Eva's (the director) film, and unfortunately she's unable to join us as she's in Beijing.
Jacen: Like what it's said in the booklet, Zo Gang was conceived one afternoon. Initially I had plenty of ideas, but thought why not combine them into one?

Q (for Sun Koh): How did you cast for your film?
Sun: Basically two points. One, who is willing to do it, and two, the body type. I know this sounds shallow, but don't you agree they look like a "healthy couple", and not the typical perfect skin, glossed up models. They are friends, and they trusted me, just as I trusted them.

Sun Koh then commented that she loved Ryan's film, as it reminded her of the story of her life, the eat-sleep-don't do anything routine, and it's a classic case between her and her mom.

Q: How do you see Singapore short films evolve in the next couple of years, especially with the onset of digital technology and citizen journalism?
Ryan: More people can watch films online, but whether they want to pay for it is a different story. Just like how this screening is free, but the good thing about it is that more people can watch them if it's free.
Bee Pin: This is the first short film I produced, so I'm new to this area.
Sun: It depends, but I remain optimistic.
Jacen: It's 2 sides, from the filmmaker sense and the general audience, who can find it easier or cheaper to make films.

Q (by Loo Zihan, for Sun Koh): How was the response of the general public and the authorities, and how did you get around censorship?
Sun: I think a little bit of pushing the boundaries does help. I didn't think about censorship when I made the film. My main question at the time was whether it can be shown here. If it cannot, it's ok, and I shouldn't be too bothered by it. Maybe because it's a short film and so it probably can't do any harm. Sex is good, violence is bad! (chuckles) After the making of this film, 3 months later, the actress Grace got pregnant - no, nothing to do with Sunny! (chuckles again) Sunny's wife was expecting too, so it is a pro-family film!

Q: How did the audiences generally react, the difference between the local and foreign audiences?
Sun: The local audience tend to gasp "It's not censored? It's R21 without cuts?!", while the foreign audience were more amused, "you mean you can't wank yourselves in you own home?" This is only the second public screening of Bedroom Dancing, and I guess MDA approved it, given that it was passed as R21 without cuts.

Q (to Jacen): I heard you're doing a documentary next?
Jacen: I'm trying to do something different, and if an idea comes along which is workable, I'll do it.

Wenjie (to Jacen): The ideas and comedy in your films are quite unique. How much of it is improvised, and how much of it scripted?
Jacen: The ideas come observations of everyday life, and those that can be used in a movie, will find its way there, like the Blair Witch Spoof. I'll usually write the dialogue, but leave it to the actors to say the lines in their own way.
Q (to Jacen): What's you day job?
Jacen: It has something to do with web video.

Wenjie (to Bee Pin): Flat Dreams is actually 3 very short films in 1 short film. How did this concept come about?
Bee Pin: Flat Dreams was written and conceptualized by Eva Tang. I'm in a production house, and was shown the script by Eva, and thought it was an opportunity for me to do the film.
Wenjie: Were the sequence of the short films deliberately placed in that order?
Bee Pin: The first two followed quite closely to the script, while the 3rd one, we did the audition, casted the actress, and actually changed the script a lot. We were pleased to have the elderly actress on board, and her day job was actually distributing flyers.

Q: In order to remain optimistic, is there anything specific that the public or organizations can do to help filmmakers in general?
Sun: I realize that one has to help oneself, and to obtain help from friends. The Singapore Film Commission (SFC) could help to grant filmmakers, through SFC, a non-profit status, so when we are raising funds, these funds go through SFC to give patrons a tax deduction. In a way, to give patrons back, rather than with the expectation that their investments must yield a decent ROI, like a business. However, I don't pretend to know the business of films, but as with businesses, there's always the expectation of an ROI.

Q: The context for the content of your films are quite local. What are your thoughts on your films travelling overseas?
Ryan: It's good to get others exposed to our brand of humour, and we're not expecting them to get it each time. For themes which are emotional, I believe that's quite universal.
Sun: I think Zo Gang is incredibly funny. If you tell a joke, some will find it funny, some will not. (To Jacen) How much does it cost to make Zo Gang?
Jacen: 0
Sun: And if it costs 0 cents, why not make it, knowing well that you can't please everybody.
Wenjie: A number of these films have actually travelled to film festivals overseas.
Sun: I think the mentality is different overseas. They are generally more curious, and want to try to understand where you're coming from.

Q: When making the film, do you make it with the mindset it's for the local audience, or thinking about the overseas audience?
Jacen: Most of the issues are universal in a way, so many can understand them. Today's films have been set in the HDB flats. We live in HDB, so we make films within the HDB setting.

Wenjie (to Ryan): Your film is done in one take. How many times did you actually shoot it to get it right?
Ryan: My mum messed up quite a lot. Everything the actors did was not told to the other beforehand, in order to capture their initial reactions. It's my first time directing a short film, and this was done a total of 3 times.

Wenjie: What's your next project?
Ryan: There's nothing on my mind now. I'm serving NS, but I might want to do something again.
Sun: I'm in the midst of post production of Lucky 7. It's the fruit of the independent filmmaking movement started here, with directors taking on crew positions, and it's a humbling learning experience.
Bee Pin: Ask Eva! We're currently involved in a project with 3 female directors from Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, and it's a reflection of South East Asia on film.
Jacen: I'm doing a documentary about the Kallang Roar, and hope to complete it in a few months time. You can check out Hosaywood for more details!

Photo Credits: Richard Lim


Tickets for the 2nd week will be distributed on Monday. Make sure you head down to the Museum early to collect them!

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