National Youth Film Award 2015: Reviews of nominated films

Please check out the nominees and brief synopsis of their films, as an important reference to understand the stories before reading the reviews I be doing below, in this article:

Best Cinematography and Visual Effects (nominees)

Best Sound editing and Sound mixing (nominees)

Best Production design and Original Music (nominees)

Best Animation and Documentary (nominees)

Take your pick from 4 more nominated categories

Introduction:

I went down to a few of the screening of selected films from the National Youth Film Awards organised by SCAPE from 25 to 27 September 2015. There are many young filming talents in Singapore, that’s a fact, based on what I’ve watched. And I’m very sorry that I was not able to cover, of give credits to the films that would have been possibly good, as I had missed out on many screenings, and could not find them online. The first 9 films reviews are what I saw at the screenings. The last 6 films are the films I went to hunt online. Some reviews focused on the technical aspects of the film, while others focused more on how I related back the film to life.

[**Disclaimer** The films are being reviewed in random sequence, and not in any order or preference]

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State of Hush Hush

Concept:

Out of all the films I had watched, this was the one I connected most with. When the film started, I could somehow figure out the story was somewhat related to Christianity, but I was not sure how the ending would be like (whether it would be a positive or negative portrayal of the faith itself). I also wondered if the director was a staunch christian believer or an ex-christian. You can learn more about the film and director in the below links 🙂 I personally liked and found the film’s concept good. It has the potential to be crafted into a longer film – which will allow for more exploration of the characters’ identity, their relationship, and the film themes on a more in-depth scale.

                                            Director’s words

State of Hush Hush 梦想狮城 – Facebook

State of Hush Hush Youtube Channel

Observation:

The starting scene where Ru Yi secretly stepped into the house to take her notebook, and his poker face reaction, asking her if she was hungry and wanted to eat was a bit off for me. If a stranger creeps into my house, I would freak out, and question her motives for being so secretive. But maybe, he knew her already beforehand in the film storyline since they were the last 2 stranded on earth? Or could that be another way for the 2 characters to cross paths in the film script? Aidian is supposed to be an Ah Beng character – which can be easily seen from his dressing. But, the actor does not have the Ah Beng characteristics and idiosyncrasies to play off such a role. Other than that, both of the main leads acted well 🙂

My personal take on the film

Struggle in one’s Faith

Ru Yi struggled with her belief in God, as she questioned why she still remained on earth even though she went to the same church, and did the same as her christian followers. Personally coming from a religious background in the past, that was something I struggled with for a long time. And having talked to quite a few of my friends on this issue, I feel that uncertainty one’s faith is a struggle many go through at either some points, or in their daily lives due to e.g. unheard prayers, unsolved or increased problems.

Hope

Like Ru Yi’s hope that God would eventually picked her up from earth, many of us also have our personal aspirations and wishes in reality that we hold on to, be it in our faith, goals, or dreams.

Importance of respecting and embracing diverse ideologies

Both characters had opposite religious beliefs.  The scene where Ru Yi kissed Aidian (whom she knows is a homosexual) after his innocent act of wanting to comfort her – I saw it as an analogy of the real world where we tend to push our ideologies to other people, even when we know the other person has their own set of beliefs, and is not comfortable with the action.

Other scenes where Aidan prevented Ru Yi from turning on the radio, which she had to do so secretly at night. How I relate it back to reality is the fact that when we do not agree with the beliefs of others, we may at times dissuade, or choose not to let them practice it, which is unfair to the parties to some extent.

If both characters had learnt to embrace their diverse beliefs, and respected each other’s personal space, they could have continued to act as each other’s emotional pillar of support in the lonely world of theirs (since they both were the 2 remaining inhabitants on earth).

How I think Religious diversity can be achieved:
1) We recognise and respect that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs 
2) We do not force them to change, nor look and treat them any differently
3) We are opened to the possibility that our beliefs may not be the total truth
4) We do not have to agree, but we can embrace the distinct beliefs in our world

Homosexuality

I wished more of the homosexuality themes could have been explored in the dialogue, but we have to consider the fact that it is a short film. There was never an open conversation on Aidian’s sexual orientation, except for one scene where Ru Yi briefly commented on his relationship with his boyfriend.

Romance and LGBT

Honestly, I think they’ll make quite a cute couple with their bickering. Thinking about it now, this fantasy of mine can only happen in my head as such an ending where he eventually falls for her like a rom-com flick might not have gone well the LGBT community. There have been many debate and studies on sexual orientation, and if you ask for my personal take – sexual orientation is not always a choice, or something that can be changed for every homosexual, like what many in our society assume and as such, such an ending may be deemed as an analogy of “conversion therapy“, or portray a wrong perception of sexual orientation.

Enigma – Teaser, Sypnosis and Production Crew

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I was lost at first about what the film was about, but I eventually understood it at the end. I found the starting of the film quite engaging, as it piqued my curiosity to what the film was about, and how it would eventually turn out. Adding on to the film imagery and close up angles, were the meticulous details in makeup and production design e.g. illuminous lights , I have to give credits to the competent sound effects too, which provided a suspenseful and tense vibe to the film. Though I felt the bloodied faces with makeup could have been slightly more aesthetically pleasing, overall, the set production and special effects makeup must have been very tedious process, and much effort was put into it e.g. texture, shape. I have to praise the students for their painstaking and detailed efforts. Overall. it was a well-made film indeed, done up by 2nd year students.

Glitch – Shelley Chan Wei Ting and Production Crew [Diploma in Film, Sound and Video, Ngee Ann Polytechnic]

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I found the middle portion a bit draggy even though it was a thriller. But nonetheless, I think the unexpected ending was good one as I honestly could not figure out the relationship between the main lead and the old uncle until the end. The ending leaves you pondering e.g. Were the choices the main lead took as the film progressed, which led to the ultimate outcome of the film worth it in the end? But if I were him, I think I would have done the same. Would I have regret my decisions? I might, but I know I did what I did based on what I felt was the best decision at that point of time.

ISSAC – Vester Ng Kian Soon [Diploma in Video Production, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Production Crew] 

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The cinematography, lighting contrast, and variations of camera angles, voiceovers, sound effects, editing, various places they filmed, were meticulous and up-to-standard. The theme of mental illness may not be a novel concept but nevertheless, I enjoyed the process of “experiencing” and being lost in differentiating between Issac’s real and imaginary world e.g. is who he is speaking to real, or fake? I got fooled, that’s for sure. The unexpected twist throughout the film was a clever strategy to give an uncertain setting of when it was fiction and when it was reality. The ending was likewise, a creative one. One impactful scene I appreciated was when they filmed the real reactions of passerbys staring at the main lead when as he freaked out. It showed how society viewed and judged people with mental illness, which is still very much a taboo stigma to be associated with.

Vengeance is Mine –  Siti Rahmah and Production Crew [Diploma in Digital Film and Television, Temasek Polytechnic]

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Much effort was put in the concept, plot progression and twist. One of the few films which focused on dialogue as a main progression of the storyline. The dialogue was not-too-bad, and the last scene reminded me of an american horror film ending. The plot was a bit draggy at some points but, I have to credit the work done up by the crew as there were various movement scenes which must have taken quite a lot of time and effort. I recognised the actress – Laura Kee from Faeryville’s film screening at SCAPE as she was an assistant director for Faeryville.

The Bedok Chronicles: Communion – Full film & Production Crew

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Having watched countless American horror flicks for the past few years, and they are usually around 90 minutes, with the same scare tactics that consumers continue to pay for, adding on to the increase use of homemade-video-style films, this film seems inspired by the American horror blockbusters, just that it is a shorter version, and set in a local landscape. The ending seems familiar too. I have to give credit though, to the twists throughout the plot.

The Lift – Yeo Zhi Qi and Jeremy Lau

There was a repeat use of the same scenes thrice. Surprisingly, it was not draggy at all, as the film made me wait in suspense and anticipation for the ending. Competent editing skills I supposed. This is not a novel concept, I remember seeing something similar before in a horror film but regardless, it was edited well, to keep audience engaged. The actor’s reaction would be the most critical aspect just before it reaches the reveal. What is the ending? It is like what you usually see at the end of the usual american horror flicks.

Susuk (Charm Needles) –  Full film and Production Crew

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What is the cost of getting the guy you love? How far are you willing to go? Lesson learnt – don’t mess with the spirits. Even though this is not a new concept, and based on malay folktale, it will allow foreigners and non-malays alike to learn more about traditional fables. I found the male lead acting skills e.g. facial reactions and when he spoke – very good. Was he from the channel 5 soccer show – First X1? The makeup of the ghost – could tell the meticulous effort put into that area. The plot reminds me of a past episode of Incredible Tales.
外界 (Graduation) – Trailer and Production Crew

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The concept of Graduation seems to be inspired and based on this popular dystopian book that was turned into a film – The Giver.  The setting of the film, societal structure, characters e.g. being brought up by a stranger, going for “graduation” are quite similar to The Giver. One scene which talks about the meaning of “love”, also seems to be taken from one part of the book.

Dilarang Rumah – Hartini Binte Mohammad Ramli and Production Crew

Initially, I was wondering why the film was placed under the “experimental” category. I later found out it was because the whole film was shot in one take. The idea and simplicity of the film e.g. showing normal daily life of Singaporeans, and the fact that the story evolved around the maid, reminded me of Ilo Ilo. The twist at the end also reminds the audience of old newspaper articles which shows what happens when an employer do not respect or treat their maids with dignity. The film too, shows us the struggles of being a maid, where you are misunderstood, and have to receive all the negativity in your daily job instead of being appreciated, even though you are serving people.

Lose it – Full film and Production Crew

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The artistic visuals of the film reminded me of the musical parts of Disney films, where they will show the characters in this fantasy-like landscape. The drawing of the characters body shapes were similar to that of Winx Club, and Japanese anime. I found the film’s topic very relevant and meaningful. The effort in the artistry was vibrant, up-to-standard, and also engaging.

And they’ve used creative means to get across the message of how media control over the idea of what is considered beautiful or attractive for a normal women which may be warped e.g. sexualization of women – in skimpy clothing, big butt, bit boobs, tiny waists, extremely thin model eating a hamburger and still staying as thin. Pictures of the main character in Cinderella’s poor clothes with a tiny waistline, acting as a member of a J-pop group in a short dress with their slim legs, or in a sexy nurse uniform (could refer to the curvaceous body shapes you see in pornography which is not realistic to the average girl on the street).

Another equally as important message was the effect of sexualization and inaccurate portrayal of women in the media, and how it impacts normal women in their daily lives e.g. eating pills, or healthy shakes to slim down.  The main character also in one scene, was an anorexic body running away from a headless chicken representing “fats”. Fat shaming, and unhealthy imagery of what is considered beautiful and acceptable for a woman’s body shape – what is our world becoming? How would this shape the minds of young girls and even guys?

Journey of a Kavadi Bearer – Full film and Director

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Looks, feels, and sounds like a legit documentary. The standard is up there, you forget they are students. It can pass off as a real documentary made by professionals. The visual design opening of the documentary, and the way the documentary is filmed – reminds me of this famous documentary – Taboo.

Stroll – Johnathan Choo

The film concept showed a conversation between a father and  son in regards to the latter’s interest to go overseas to study industrial design, which the father was initially reluctant towards. I relate back to the characters – dad and son, in a sense where I myself also faced the same issue. My passion might not be what my parent think is right or appropriate for me. But I still hope 1to pursue it, because I know I will regret not trying. Only when we explore, will we know if the choice was wrong anot. And even if it was wrong, I’m very sure will not regret my decision because at the very least, I knew I already did what I wanted.

You’ll see the contrast between the mindset of the older and younger generation – one is more conservative, simple, with less ambition because of his humble background. The other is more passionate and determined to seek out his desired path. The starting scene showed in the background – another father guiding his young son how to ride a bike, but the latter takes a fall when the father let’s go of his reach. The ending scene showed them again, but this time when the father pushes the son forth, the boy manages to cycle on. I see it as an analogy of the progress of the main lead’s father’s initial unsupportive attitude, which later changed, as he showed agreement and allowed his son to push forth his dream in studying overseas. 

Little Maud – Petrina Anne De Souza and Production Crew 
I did not understand nor felt engaged to the film the first few times I watched it as I’m a literal observer. But it was at the fifth rewatch on a quiet night at 12am where I finally understood what the film meant, and felt a tinge of “heartbreak”. This made me realize that I should re-watch an abstract film if I did not get it the first few times as it is actually possible for me to appreciate and feel the emotions of the film once I understood it. It reminds me of a poem I wrote about not wanting to leave my parents when they grow old. The film is of a similar theme, just that the father is now the one not wanting to let go of the close relationship he has with his young daughter.

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It starts off with his daughter clinging tight onto him after a nightmare, and the poetry lines being played on screen. This film was inspired by the Poem: “Little Sleep’s – Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight” by Galway Kinnel. The later scene where he was playing catching with his daughter when she climbed up the stairs, led him to a fantasy world where he struggles to climb up a tall mountain with huge steps. When he finally reaches the top, he sees a teenager version of his daughter with her back facing him and hands outstretched, standing at the edge of a mountain and quite a distance from him. I interpret this as an analogy of him drifting apart from his daughter as she grows older and becomes more independent, venturing out on her own.

The next scene showed the same teenager version daughter walking to the kitchen to take a lunchbox while he is making bread. He is not aware of her presence as she represents the future, while he is still in the present time making bread with his young daughter. I interpreted this scene as showing the father’s present close relationship with his daughter vs a decade later where she has grown up and picks her lunchbox her father has made, instead of making bread with him together like they did when she was younger.

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The next scene shows the father’s reaction when seeing the lunchbox he has made for his daughter in the thrash bin. It most probably symbolizes the fact that his teenage version daughter has thrown away their close relationship they once had. The film then goes back to the father sitting sadly at the edge of the cave thinking about the matter. Later on, he is at the other end of the cave again and sees the back of a lady. This time, he calls out for his daughter’s name “Moe”. The woman turns and he realizes it his daughter has become a middle age woman. She starts to bury him, and a close up shot of his “petrified” face is seen. 

The ending scene is back in her bedroom, where the father puts her back to bed after comforting her from her nightmare. I think the director wanted to show the father’s fear of time passing too fast, and everything turning into past memories as his daughter grows up quickly, finally turns her back away from him, and eventually sending him off when he grows old and die. The father hopes his daughter can stay as close together with him before she becomes older, symbolized by her clinging on to him tightly as a kid. 

Osmosis Of Dad & The Love For Bubble T Film – Muhammad Nasiruddin Bin Abdul Razak and Production Crew

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There seems to be a lack of chemistry between the 2 main leads. The actress Esther Low (recognize her as she is a piano teacher-cum-singer song writer in a local music school – Thunder Rock School where many of the teachers are involved in the local music scene, and she appeared on channel 5 numerous times e.g. Lion Mum) looks a tad older than the boyfriend though they seemed to be acting similar age. She gave off an older sister vibe instead of a girlfriend vibe when portraying the scenes. But this could be perpetuated by the script itself, as the girlfriend plays the supportive role of trying to get he boyfriend out of his mancave due to his obsession with his father who has passed on. He hangs on tightly to his small tv every day (he had found it one day in his messy room) which allows him to reminisce old videos of the time he and his father had. He even talks to the small TV as though he is chatting with is dad, and this obsession ends up making him detached from his relationship and daily life. One scene which showed this was when the girlfriend reached out her hand to show her support and comfort for him, only to receive a cold nudge.

His girlfriend found his small TV one day and seemed to be able to see videos of him and her during their good old dating days. This made me wonder, is the small TV a magical tool? Since both he and she could see videos of happy memories (either past or fantasy) of their own. I’m quite a literal observer so just a disclaimer – my perception of what the film is about may be totally off. The girlfriend’s character seems to play a pivotal role in directing the storyline, as her actions brings about reaction and changes from the boyfriend who is very passive character. Even she was one who made the first move during their dating years. But unlike her boyfriend, she chooses not to remain in the past or fantasy memories with the small TV as she knows that is what she wants, but it is not in her present reality, and thus, her focus should be on what can currently change to achieve this better reality (improved future for her and her boyfriend).

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During a fight, she decides to spoil the small TV even when her boyfriend threatened to break up with her if she did so. With the small TV spoilt, he went to the beach, reflected on his life, and left the small TV at the ocean, most likely to symbolize that he has moved on from the past, moved on from his dad’s passing. The film ends off with him looking for her at her new workplace. Maybe it is to show that this time, he is finally the one that takes the initiative to make a positive change in their relationship whereas in the past, she was always the one being the pillar for their relationship. The progress and growth of the film characters reminded me of Choice Theory Reality Therapy. On a side note, they decided to mention our state’s “Cyber Security Act” in one of the scenes for some reason or another.

Written by: Cass

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