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Concepts of life
TV Watch: 8 days
As Ch 12 launches a Festival of Asian Short Films, INDRANI NADARAJAH previews the ones chosen from the Singapore Short Film Competition this year and finds them collectively rather bleak.

Nobody was more surprised than Cheah Chee Kong himself, when his film Married won the Best Singapore Short Film Award in April this year. He didn’t this his intensely personal views were palatable for others; and yet, the prize of $10,000 cash was jointly awarded to him and Christopher Pereira, whose Ethos was a co-winner.

Married, a six minute-long film, shows a married couple who don’t communicate. They only come alive when they are clubbing with their best friends. The scenes are interchangeable except for the different settings of pub or karaoke lounge. The link: monotonous percussion music in the background.

“I feel that relationships are a waste of time,” Cheah declares. “And in this film, I show the boring way married people go through life. Not talking, just staring stonily at a mirror.”

Hurt Instinct is a montage
of clippings and street scenes,
it shows a totally different
side of Singapore, dissonant
images of death, tragedy,
jealousy, betrayal
and lust reign.

The film was shot over two evenings, at a cost of $300, which Cheah considers expensive. The 28-year-old is a producer with Television Corporation of Singapore, and he has made home videos in the past. Married, however, represents his first effort at filming actors and actresses. Cheah mulled on the concept for about a year, his motivation being the unhappy relationship he was going through at the time.

In Ethos, Pereira (who’s currently studying film in the United States) tells a disturbing tale of one man’s escalating fears in a waiting room. The ten-minute film, which pulsates with a raw, negative energy, starts out romatically enough, with a good-looking couple falling in love. But things soon start to sour. It’s not clear who’s at fault, but the flashback sequences are terrifying, showing images of the woman dead on the floor and the man obsessively washing his bloody hands. The background ‘music’ of smothered screams induce still more goosebumps. There is little comfort in the last scene of his wife or girlfriend cradling a newborn baby; instead, it inspires fear for her safety.

The other three films being screened on Ch 12 in this Thursday’s Asian Short Films programme were also finalists for the Best Singapore Short Film Competition. The contest has been an annual event since 1991, organised by the Singapore International Film Festival to promote local filmmaking.

Hurt Instinct is a 20-minute montage of clippings and street scenes. Directed and produced by Nisar and Nazir Husain (whose Ragged won 1993’s Special Jury Prize), it shows a totally different side of Singapore, dissonant images of death, tragedy, jealousy, betrayal and lust reign.

Eddy, directed by Dzulkifli Sungit, is a poignant study of an unhappy only child who tries to find solace in his studies but is pressured to succeed.

Journeys Parts 1, 2 & 3 are three films by Philip Lim, short looks at what such Singaporean artists as Kuo Pao Kun think about the arts and why they do what they do.

With the exception of Journeys, the films portray bleakness. “We are making no value judgement on the films and the themes they choose, because some of them are still pretty rough, “says Amy Chua, Vice President of Programming for TV 12, who chose the films. “But we want to expose them to Singaporeans.”

Other films by Asians from the region, America and Australia are also included in the six-part Asian Short Films series. “It’s not meant to be a comprehensive showcase, but depending on audience response, we plan to make it an annual series,” Chua says.

The Festival of Asian Short Films airs weekly from Thur on Ch 12.

Click here for more information about Hurt Instinct.



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