Out of 130 entries to Singapore Shorts ‘18, 14 titles have been chosen in this showcase to represent the breadth and depth of short film output from Singapore and Singaporeans in 2017 and the past months of 2018. The eventual selection is based on merits of quality, originality and diversity determined across this year’s selection panel.
Family centric themes feature strongly in this crop of films. The bonds between parents and children are contemplated upon in poignant and understated fashion. Blue in D-Flat Major by Mark Chua and Lam Li Shuen and White Carnations by Tang Wan Xin for instance look specifically into the maternal presence, the former more an elusive introspection into sacrifices and reconciliations while the latter barely suppresses its primal characteristics against the afflictions of circumstances.
A gay adult son and his relationship with his dead mother is also explored in Between Us Two by Tan Wei Keong, a deeply confessional piece by the director who bridges personal episodes with a uniquely tactile treatment. It is also the only animation work chosen in this year’s selection. This sense of familial intimacy can also be keenly felt in a shot on the fly fly-on-the-wall in Away by Tang Kang Sheng, when a daughter’s moment of anxiety is effected through its spontaneity and brevity.
The father-son dynamic is similarly explored in Melodi by Michael Kam and The Parchment by Pavithran Nathan – the former chooses to follow the perspective of a child, skillfully infusing the unfettered imaginative within an understatedly disturbing adult reality, while the latter is a fine attempt at the spiritual horror genre, a tightly woven narrative gruesomely driven by desperation and its instinct towards chaos.
The breakdown of relationships or the attempts at reconciliation are also themes addressed outside of the familial construct and treated in alternative ways. A deft hand in dramedy for instance allows a socially conscious work like CA$H by Tan Wei Ting to be both poignant and humorous without being didactic. In Inspirational Ghost by Sissi Kaplan, the lingering memories of an unrealised romantic relationship are fueled vividly through the hauntings of images and sounds beyond the usual trappings of sorrow. Five Trees by Nelson Yeo thrives on subversion in a cosmic love story of reunification and reincarnation, cleverly detuning the coordinates of our stable and steady supply of sob story dramas.
In this same spirit of frivolity and subversion, 5 Rehearsals of a Wedding by Kray Chen draws us into a familiar but uncanny world of Singaporean Chinese wedding traditions that constantly seeks to destabilise itself. A stylistic piece like Shelf Life by Ryan Benjamin Lee prioritises an overactive imagination by disrupting the banal and concocting non-human centered lives in daily household objects through fun familiar gestures. Likewise, an unabashedly mischievous slapstick heist-genre film like Damaged On The Inside by Syamsul Bahari endears simply because it knows how to have fun with itself. The point of these films’ existence is their very essence at never taking themselves, and by extension life, too seriously – an admirable quality in and of itself.
Lastly, a pair of documentaries round up this year’s selection with varying methodologies to approach ethnography. Row by Amanda Tan requires no verbal cues nor the written word to observe the visual and acoustic textures of the last standing traditional fishermen in Singapore. Between Pudukkottai & Singapore – Poems by N Rengarajan by Vishal Daryanomel does the opposite – harnessing the Tamil language poetry in an interdisciplinary exercise with film to draw out the inner lives of the migrant worker poets. Both works expand the Singaporean experience by illuminating the periphery without any condescension.
All screenings are held at the Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore. Free admission with registration at singaporeshorts18.peatix.com
About Singapore Shorts ’18
The inaugural edition of Singapore Shorts ’18 is an annual showcase celebrating the best and the most promising local short films in Singapore. A critical platform for excellence and diverse thought in moving images, the selection will be overseen by a panel of respected professionals across Singapore’s film industry.
Alongside screenings of the selected cinematic works, the programme will also feature post-screening discussions with the filmmakers, dedicated reviews from critics and a special section of older titles from the Asian Film Archive’s collection.
Singapore Shorts ’18 will be held at the Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore from 13-15 July 2018.