by Gan Chin Lin (17A01B), Marilyn Kang (17A01B), Elyn Tzen (17S03B), Ada Lim (17S03B),
LT2 was the same as always – the glare of yellow lights, the green seats with flip-tables covered in strangely hieroglyphic scribbles, the low hum of student voices in the background. What was different that night however was a rare buzz of excitement as students hurried to get the best seats in the house or showed off their voting slips proudly. Groups of friends shuffled into aisles hefting sports equipment and school bags alike, ready for a cinematographic experience created and produced under the artistic direction of their very own peers after a long day of CCA and lessons.
This was the first time that the films produced for Filmfeste were being screened in a public viewing session held within school, and the first time that the results of Filmfeste were to be determined on the very same night as well. This year, a special award – the Audience Choice Award – was introduced, and to be decided through live voting by audience members. By allowing the house spirit from student support to translate into tangible results and creating an environment that captured the reaction of a live audience, the organisers behind Filmfeste encouraged student participation and nurtured a strong vein of house spirit in the event. The cinematic environment created within the LT was a highly unusual one in comparison to the usual lectures and lessons that graced its four walls which made the unveiling of the films all the more exciting.
The first film of the night to be screened was “Reflections” by BB, following the story of a girl who struggles to meet the expectations of her parents, her CCA, and her friends. Pressured to rise to everyone’s expectations, she ends up cracking under the resultant mental and emotional strain – lagging behind on schoolwork, missing out on CCA training, and falling out with her friends. Eventually, she realizes that despite the myriad of different expectations of those around her, what really matters is that she is true to herself to the end. The film utilised shadows and reflections in its filmography in companionship to the dialogue and acting to clearly portray different emotions. The editing in particular was a strong point of commendation, featuring a variety of skills from slow-motion footage to a double-person image in a mirror scene. BB’s film spoke out to all the audience members because of its relatable topic, garnering much emotional response and providing a sense of catharsis.
BW’s film screening followed. “Friends: Less Than Meets The Eye” tells the story of two friends of opposite genders who are pressured by romantically inclined expectations that they would eventually become an item, exerted on them by their friends. Trying to mitigate the teasing ‘shipping’ by their friends and define their own friendship at the same time, the two eventually arrived at the epiphany that it is not worth sacrificing their precious friendship simply because they are afraid of what others might say about their relationship. The film followed the cast as they navigated their emotional journey in different parts of the school grounds, featuring familiar sights and sounds in every frame. The editing in particular featured the clever usage of little message bubbles on the screen to complement the role messaging played in the film, encapsulating the exchanges and emotion between the two friends in a quirky and novel manner. The film proved itself a lighthearted and heartening watch, bringing to attention an important concept of friendship between opposite genders that is seldom touched upon. In particular, the cast of animated actors made the film incredibly enjoyable to watch with their fun and genuine portrayal of friendship.
HH’s film, entitled “You And Eye”, tells its story through the various perspectives of both animate and inanimate narrators, with a tasteful touch of humor that evoked the loudest of laughs. The actors and actresses were unabashed in immersing fully into character, no matter what sort, and it was this that carried the unconventional storytelling in the film and made it work. Relying on anecdotes unique to every student in RJ and a comical spectrum of narrative voices, the film provided an enjoyable and amusing take on how some of the tiniest things deviating from our expectations may turn out to be lovely surprises, touching one’s heart and making the school environment our warm second home. The film was unique in its usage of vlog-style filming that followed the various narrators around as they went about their day, utilising angles and voiceovers to give the audience as tangible an experience in the shoes of each narrator as possible. This definitely lent the film a personal touch, and the comically interwoven narratives came together in a clever script that invited chuckles of mirth from the audience.
MR’s film “Pai Leh Lio (Spoilt Radios)” is a nostalgic film with a strong local flavor, filled with beautifully framed cinematic shots within the quintessentially familiar Singaporean HDB setting. With an artistic direction for filmography that echoed the style of local filmmakers like Royston Tan, the story brought to life an unconventional friendship between a young schoolboy and a karang guni (rag and bone man). After the gift of a spoilt radio in exchange for a stack of old newspapers, the lonely schoolboy begins to find the answers to his need for companionship in the karang guni man. Through the retrospective narration of the schoolboy, the audience is shown the disparity between the schoolboy’s perspective and the reality of the relationship between the two characters, highlighting the expectation of reciprocity of emotion in friendships as the underlying concept of the film. The dusky, softly muted color palette added warmth to the poignant tale that put an unexpected twist on the audience’s perspectives on friendship and the nature of human relationships. The film was particularly outstanding in terms of its artistic beauty, and the whimsical soundtrack helped further enhance the atmosphere of nostalgia and memory that the film created within the confines of the LT.
Lastly, MT’s film “Clean Slate” was a film that painted a touching and emotional portrait of family, love and loneliness. The film portrayed the meandering of time between past and present within the mind of an old wedding photographer with dementia, and the struggle he undergoes to reconcile his younger self from the past with his present circumstances. The concepts of letting go, change, and idealistic expectations drove the narrative for this film. With an ambitious direction that defied any limitations age might have imposed to portray characters of incredible depth, experience and maturity, the MT team crafted a story that explored human connections and memory, deepened by the role dementia played in their film. Their portrayal of familial and romantic emotion alike and the way they wove past and present into a poignant narrative touched the audience, and evoked strong emotional reactions that ranged from “aw”s to exclamations of sympathy.
During the intermission, students trooped out of the LT to cast their votes while deliberation took place amongst the judges. Of course, the highlight of the event was when the results were announced:
Winners for Each Category
Best Directing – BB
Audience Choice Award – BB
Best Film – MR
Best Cinematography – MR
Best Script – MR
Best Acting – BB
1st – BB
2nd – MR
3rd – BW
4th – HH
5th – MT
Timothy Fong Jia Le (17A01A) from MT’s Film Fest team provided a retrospective view on the preparative process that was the conceptualization of the film: “Reflecting on the whole process of conceptualisation and production, we think that it was really hectic but also really fun. At the scripting stage, our first draft turned out to be a tad too dark and philosophical. It took us a lot of effort (and sleepless nights!) to humanise the script and make it more emotional.”
Regarding the actual filming, he decided that the process “was very time-consuming, but fun.” Timothy shares that their team “had many memorable experiences, like making yusheng with vegetables from scratch and faking wedding preparations in a church…The whole time, all of us were focused on our common goal of producing a decent movie. We achieved that, having fun and enjoying each other’s company at the same time. In the end, we all felt proud and satisfied seeing the fruits of our labour being screened in the LT in front of our peers. The two weeks of preparation went by really quickly, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re having fun!”
In general, the quality of the films crafted for this year’s Filmfeste were of highly remarkable and polished standard, and the judges echoed popular audience sentiment in their evaluation that the level of visual art presented that night appeared to be the work of professionals, rather than teams of student amateurs. Although the films were short and had to adhere to the 15-minute cap, it was evident that a lot of time and effort had gone into the conceptualization of every second, every scene, every miniscule detail. There is no doubt that the creation of a film is no mean feat – from the multitude of roles to fulfill that include directing, producing, filming, editing and acting, to the challenge of translating a narrative into a visually engaging and all-round sensory experience. “It was heartening to see films of such calibre being produced in an insanely short span of 13 days,” said Xu Jiaxin (16A01A), Film Chair and organizer of Filmfeste. “Not only did the produced works wildly exceed the organisers’ expectations, they have also set a pretty high bar for the Filmfeste teams next year. While they may not have been the most technically accomplished works, there was no doubt that they were incredibly heartfelt films that came right from the gut.”
Ultimately, all the hard work and determination proved to be worth it as the Filmfeste teams witnessed the screening of the fruits of their labour to a supportive and happy audience. “Although the team was small, everyone was always willing to do more than they needed and that made all the difference…We set out hoping to bring some smiles and laughs to the audience, I like to think that we managed to achieve that,” Chloe Young (17S03N) from the HH film team said. “Honestly, sitting in that theatre with a live audience watching your film – it’s quite a nerve-wrecking but rewarding experience. Hearing the laughter and knowing that you managed to make someone laugh and have fun, even if just for a little while, is really worth more than a bag of popcorn.”
What of future Filmfestes to come? “The organisers hope that Filmfeste will continue to grow and expose (pun unintended) more Rafflesians to the transformative impact of the cinema, as well as the art of filmmaking,” Jiaxin added. We were definitely impressed by the films of this year’s Filmfeste, which chronicled a heartfelt dedication and team effort invested in the production process that truly characterizes the spirit of IHC. Hopefully, the Filmfestes in the future will echo a similar culture of hard work, creative energy and incredible cinematic artwork – we certainly cannot wait for the next chapter of student-created films.