On Cinema

Month: January, 2009

Asian Film Archive Collection: Singapore Shorts Vol.2

“Vital evidence of the excellent work being done in Singapore.” Dave Kehr, Film Critic on Singapore Shorts Vol. 2.

In 2005, we took a leap of faith and produced a DVD anthology of Singapore short films – Asian Film Archive Collection: Singapore Shorts Vol. 1 to raise funds for our fledging organisation. Then, short films were seen only in art-house spaces. No one has published, marketed and distributed a DVD of short films in Singapore. Admittedly, it was a gamble that we took. It would decide if the Archive, then barely a few months old, would be able to find support from the community to carry on. As the founder, I was dipping into my own savings for more than six months already and I, too, needed a sign from the higher powers.

It was difficult. Even finding retailers to carry DVD was a challenge as it did not fall under any of their product categories. I remember one of many that rejected us: “It’s not that we do not want to support you but do not know where to place it on our shelves. It’s not a music CD nor a feature film.” Through sheer persistence by my fellow colleagues, supporters and volunters, we managed to do well enough to generate three re-prints of Singapore Shorts Vol. 1 and in so doing, provided crucial funding for the Archive, a non-governmental organisation. I must also add that without the ardent support of my board of directors – Kenneth Paul Tan, Kenneth Chan, Ong Sor Fern and Jacqueline Tan – who signed the banker’s guarantee for the production, this project would not have materialised at all.

After publishing a second DVD anthology in 2006 – Royston’s Shorts, we started planning for Singapore Shorts Vol. 2 in early 2008. As with every DVD project that we undertook, much resources and efforts were committed. Each member from the curation team (Karen Chan, Pauline Soh, Ethan Yeo, Daniel Koh: all my wonderful colleagues at the Archive) nominated what they felt should be included. The initial shortlist came up to about thirty short films from the Asian Film Archive Collection. As we believe in the depth and diversity of Singapore film talents, we decided to adhere to two guidelines in our second round of curation process: a) to feature filmmakers not showcased yet in Singapore Shorts Vol. 1, b) to feature short films not yet available on DVD so we do not duplicate efforts. The list withered down to half and a few possible themes also emerged to form cohesion for the films. We further did a check with the filmmakers and/or rights owners to check if we have their blessings for considering their films for the anthology. By late March, we began the arduous process of negotiating for rights clearance.

By July, the final list was confirmed and we proceeded to collate, conceptualise and design Singapore Shorts Vol.2. This is a selection of nine films, made between 1974 and 2007, from the Asian Film Archive Collection. Special features were also produced, some from scratch: audio-commentaries of all nine films, essays by scholars and critics, stills and storyboards. A noteworthy addition is the audio restoration work on Labour of Love – The Housewife, one of the earliest short films made in Singapore and exhibited and awarded in oversea film festivals in the 70s.

Each Asian Film Archive Collection DVD anthology is made with patience, pleasure and love. Through these films which have never been available on DVD yet, we hope the different facets of the Singapore society and family can be explored and better understood from these insightful and edifying angles.

A Family Portrait / Un Retrato De Familia (2004) directed by Boo Junfeng
Absence (1997) directed by K. Rajagopal
Autopsy (2007) directed by Loo Zihan
Gourmet Baby (2001) directed by Sandi Tan
Imelda Goes to Singapore (2006) directed by Brian Gothong Tan
Labour of Love – The Housewife (1974-1979) directed by Rajendra Gour
Match Made (2006) directed by Mirabelle Ang
Wet Season (2007) directed by Michael Tay Hong Khoon
Yesterday’s Play (2005) directed by Ryan Tan Wei Liang

“Singapore Shorts Vol. 2 succeeds as a platform for young cinematic voices to formulate emerging modes of political aesthetics to engage a new generation of discerning Singapore audiences.” – Assistant Professor Kenneth Chan, University of Northern Colorado

“A must-have for any film aficionado with a thirst for Singapore films.” – Stefan Shih, Twitch

“Taken together this set of short films chronicles not only the relatively permanent features of the realities of family life but also provides critical reflections and commentaries on the political relations between Singapore and some of its neighbouring countries, an unequal and economic hierarchical relation that strangely reflects and recalls the patriarchal and hierarchical structure of the male dominant family.” – Professor Chua Beng Huat and Associate Professor Vineeta Sinha, National University of Singapore

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Collecting Trees I

Coming in.

Blissfully Yours

Going away.
Sansho the Bailiff

Top: Blissfully Yours (2001) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Below: Sansho Dayu (1954) by Kenji Mizoguchi

Memories of Cinema in 2008

2008 Film Montage

At the end of every year, as with anyone who love cinema, I’ll reflect on the films that I’ve watched and/or re-watched. I do not believe in ranking films. Films, like people, deserve a basic form of respect. Even films that we do not like personally. I do not know any filmmaker who goes out there to make a bad film. Like many who do make a list, I wish more would have seen these films that stayed with me long after I experienced them.

Contempt (1963) by Jean-Luc Godard
Diary of A Country Priest (1951) by Robert Bresson
Ecce Bombo (1978) by Nanni Moretti
Emerald (2008) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Flowers of Arabian Nights (1974) by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Go, Go Second Time Virgin (1969) by Koji Wakamatsu
Ivan’s Childhood (1962) by Andrei Tarkovsky
Kantata Takwa (1991-2008) by Gotot Prakosa and Erros Djarot
Last Year of Marienbad (1961) by Alain Resnais
Late Spring (1949) by Yasujiro Ozu
Mystery of the Organism (1971) by Dusan Makavejev
Night and Fog in Japan (1960) by Nagisa Oshima
Rabun (2003) by Yasmin Ahmad
Sansho the Bailif (1954) by Kenji Mizoguchi
Secret Sunshine (2007) by Lee Chang Dong
Shorei X (2008) by Kohki Yoshida
Si Mamad (1973) by Sjuman Djaya
The Eclipse (1962) by Michelangelo Antonioni
United Red Army (2008) by Koji Wakamatsu
Wanderlust (2008) by Daniel Hui