By Gan Chin Lin (17A01B) , Jeanne Tan (17A01B) , Marilyn Kang (17A01B), Abdul Qayyum (17A01B)
Last Friday night saw the PAC festooned with clapper board paraphernalia, pamphlets and balloons. Film Society members strategically assembled behind their front of house in anticipation of the audience slowly trickling into the Performing Arts Centre (PAC).
Whilst most events held within the PAC present for the stage, this particular one prepped for the big screen. Rewind IV: Final Cuts brightened the place with balloons, film posters, and even a special polaroid booth for a night of film screenings – not your average Hollywood blockbuster, but films produced entirely by the members of Film Society.
Notably, ticket sales for the showcase were replaced by a voluntary donation system, where audience members could choose to give any amount they wished before entering the PAC. All proceeds from the night were donated to the RI Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, who also collaborated with the Film Society for the polaroid booth, which drew many enthused participants posing in front of a backdrop of colourful streamers and balloons.
As a light-hearted segue from the stress of the school day, the event opened with a series of humorous shorts, filmed by J1s during Film Camp earlier in the year. One film in particular, an advertisement for ordinary stationery, was bubbling over with tongue-in-cheek humour, what with positioning staplers against powerful sunbeams and voiceovers of dramatic dialogue.
Another documentary film by the J1s entitled “How To Make A Film” strived to bring the audience behind the camera and straight into the heart of the filmmaking process. The parody title “Harry Trotter and the Kidney Stone” drew some raised eyebrows – yet the animated references, puns and humour managed to engage the audience and convey some real insights.
Now that they were all warmed up and ready to go, the audience were introduced to the first thesis film, “FLESH & BLOOD”. In thirty short minutes, it painted the story of a teenage boy coming to terms with the fact that his mother left him in his childhood.
Undoubtedly, the most striking achievement of the film was its simply breathtaking establishing shots. For instance, the opening shot of the film poised a block of flats lit up against the night within the screen, which soon folded up and receded within the frame of window grilles as the camera moved backwards.
Conceptually, the film did a fair job in depicting and developing the tensions within the principal father-son relationship given the limited time span of the film and its production. The chemistry between characters were also noteworthy, as character dynamics were convincingly portrayed by the actors.
That being said, there were instances in which the script proved shaky, especially within the highly emotional scenes, where the dialogue felt a little flat given the heights of emotion it was trying to convey. Furthermore, there were notable slips in acting as well, with actors accidentally shifting accents in the middle of dialogues.
Unfortunately, the slight stiltedness created by such slips compromised the integrity of the scenes’ intense emotion. Despite this, the film’s quaint style and visual flair earned a rousing applause from the audience.
After a brief intermission, the audience rushed to their seats for the opening of the next film, “SECOND CHANCES”. The film featured relatable themes such as the value of personal courage to achieve your dreams, as well as exploring the implications of foregone opportunities and regret, through a dual-linear plotline.
The film offered one narrative, where the decision of the main character to not pursue her musical passions sent her down a plummeting journey of loneliness, regret and fear; as well as an alternative plotline of a more happier and optimistic recount of a life unmarred by regret.
The performance of the main actress brought the struggle to life and gave voice to the struggles that students face in chasing their dreams. Some commented that her facial expressions were more subtle than they would have liked, but this was compensated in spades with her spectacular use of body language. With the weight of the film resting on her one performance, the direction was well-executed and enabled the film to pack its punch.
The intriguing questions it raised gave the film loud applause from the audience, as well as appreciation for the positive “Carpe Diem” message it chose to impart. However, some audience members felt the fluidity of the plot have could been improved upon, as well as the general impact of the film overall.
The night then ended with what was arguably the most visually stunning piece of the showcase, “THE PORTRAIT”. Unconventional, peaceful and inspiring, the film submerged the audience into a vivid, visual interpretation of a poem of the same name by Stanley Kunitz.
The film adapts the poem into a narrative of a child and father grappling with the ideas of absence and loss. It was clear, however, that the true merit of the film was in the beauty of the shots, as well as tasteful editing.
The film started with a voice-over which lapsed into swelling orchestral music with various (titular) portrait-style cinematic shots. Many audience members commented on how the film had an adverse emotional impact on them, though the reason why seemed to be obscure.
After the movie, Fabiola Susilo (17S06A) recalled that “the film gave [her] goosebumps”, noting that the effects of the film lingered. Unfortunately, due to its brevity, the message of the poem was lost on many of the audience members. The sophisticated and experimental nature of the film – whilst brave and aesthetically pleasing – left many with more questions than answers.
The screenings were proceeded with a Q&A session with the three crews, and the members of Film Society answered audience questions on their journeys in creating each of their thesis projects.
Each group underwent a very different process during the production, from actor collaboration to script rewrites and the eventual experience of shooting and editing. Despite this, they were united in a common pride, and relief at having completed their projects – no mean feat given the extensive 6-month long execution.
The Q&A brought to light a great deal about what goes on behind the scenes of movies. Most notably from the crew of The Portrait, where their answers revealed that their final experimental concept was a result of remodelling of limited available footage, due to unforeseen circumstances. While the end product was far from their original concept, it was well received, a triumph to the crew in the wake of their harrowing production experience.
For the other two films, the crews experienced less drastic production difficulties, but it was evident that the task of producing a film was one that required meticulous planning and creativity.
Finally, the showcase drew to a close in showers of applause. The audience lapsed into a lively buzz, discussing what they each interpreted of the films as well as their personal favorites. Rather akin to an intimate and casual film showing, an atmosphere of coziness overcame the PAC in the midst of their chattering.
Given the readiness in which commercialized blockbusters are churned out from Hollywood into theatres, it is not everyday that the average student is given a chance to learn about the painstaking process of creating multisensory narrative. Ultimately, Rewind IV: Final Cuts allowed students to engage in the intimacies of the art, and gain new insight of the enriching journey of film production.
“The cinema is not an art which films life: the cinema is something between art and life.”
– Jean-Luc Godard