By Zara Karimi (18A01A), Elizabeth Leong (18S06G) and Choi Hoe Chang (18S07A)
Last Friday, months of back-breaking hard work and careful planning came to fruition for Raffles Film Society. Their showcase, Rewind V: Façade, featured thesis films by the graduating batch, as well as short, sharp vignettes by the Year 5s. Despite the variety of themes explored in the films, Façade did not fail to enthral the enthusiastic audience gathered in the PAC.
The emcees, Elizabeth Xu and Gan Chong Jing, helmed the event with memorable, witty banter. Numerous mispronunciations of the word “façade” later, they formally introduced the films of the night.
i tells the story of Diane, a girl with social anxiety, who makes her first ever friend, Kate, after returning a key accidentally dropped to the floor. The story is told in snippets, as Diane narrates charming moments in their developing friendship, while spending time at Kate’s house. Her retelling soon takes a sharp, dark turn, when it is revealed that the friendship was but a figment of Diane’s imagination, created to cope with her crippling loneliness.
Deftly executed, the film made good use of subtle foreshadowing to set viewers up for the sharply executed plot twist. Diane’s description of her time with Kate was (definitely intentionally) awkward, while the two characters were never seen together in Kate’s house. The storyline was enhanced with the actors’ brilliant performance.
The next film of the night, titled What You Don’t See, explores themes of friendship, family and mutual support through the lives of four friends: Darren, Clara, Melissa and Matthew. A harmless game of truth or dare turns serious as Melissa reveals her parents’ impending divorce. While she accepts her friends’ support, unbeknownst to the others, Matthew faces similar family issues that he chooses to keep quiet about. The film provides an interesting juxtaposition of Clara and Matthew – even though the both of them face similar struggles, they deal with them differently. It is not until another game of truth or dare that Matthew finally breaks down, and the film ends with the poignant image of his three friends embracing him and offering comfort.
The dialogue and direction felt natural, and the occasional use of “jock speak” allowed for a degree of light-heartedness. The sheer amount of work that had gone into the film was evident, in part thanks to the “countless hours [spent] editing,” with crew members claiming to have slept at 5am as a result.
“Filmmaking is tough,” said crew member Liu Zechu, “but it’s fun.”
Safe to say, their efforts did pay off. With the viewer taking on the perspective of an onlooker, What You Don’t See brought to the table a realistic, intensely personal portrayal of friendship, vulnerability and emotional support.
Screened after a short intermission, Emergence was a documentary featuring four people in different stages of their lives: student Emma Gee, working adults Andrea Ang and Ray Chng, and RI counsellor Gary Koh. Their stories of resilience amidst challenging circumstances tied the documentary together – in other words, emergence from hardship, with its universality emphasised through the age range of its subjects.
Crew member Liang Yuzhao described the amount of footage that the team had to sift through (3 hours, to be cut into a much shorter final film). It had taken them five days just to decide on sequencing. He remarked that despite the hardships – including almost losing an important hard drive – “it [was] all worth it, seeing the film on screen.”
Given their commendable fight against difficult circumstances to deliver a pleasing final product, the crew members of Emergence could probably have featured in the very film they made!
The last film of the night, Return to Sender, was a heartrending portrayal of the life of an elderly woman named Ji (played by Mdm. Tuan Meng Chng).
Each carefully-coordinated shot keenly captured Ji’s repetitive routine: every day, she would clean her house, do the laundry, go to the wet market, listen to radio programmes, and, interestingly enough, tear flyers – all to keep herself sane in the lonely monotony that has become her life.
Yet after finding a flyer featuring her childhood sweetheart, Ji reveals her past romantic entanglements through a series of polaroids and VHS films. Resolving to seek out her old flame, Ji decides to cycle across the country, to the office listed on the flyer. The film ends on a happy note, with Ji and her former lover bring reunited once again.
What was most remarkable about this film was the incredible use of framing. For instance, Ji’s HDB corridor was shot from across the block, such that the storey above and below her floor were both captured, to pleasing effect. These same scenes, amongst others, were constantly used throughout the film, subtly reflecting the repetitive nature of Ji’s daily life. This further highlights the eventual break in her routine.
At the end of the film, the earlier repeated scenes of her daily life were flashed on screen, this time without Ji in the picture. This sealed the fact that she had truly moved on, leaving the audience glad that Ji had found a better way of living out her days.
Gan Chin Lin, director, revealed that she was inspired when she watched a film by American film crew Voyager. It revolved around a 98-year-old named Mary who also tore flyers to keep herself sane. She added that “we added a positive spin to” to Ji’s story as they wished to showcase the “resilience, spunk and positive side of the elderly”. Thus, Ji eventually gets a happy ending.
In addition to the four thesis films, Raffles Film Society screened a series of interlude films by their Year 5 batch. These parodies – of music videos, foreign language dramas, rom-coms and thrillers – made excellent use of emotional whiplash and meme subtext, and might well have rivalled the thesis films themselves, if the audience’s bouts of raucous laughter were anything to go by.
All of these films are available on YouTube to watch on director Michael Chow’s channel, and we strongly recommend watching them. In the meantime, here are some of our favourite moments.
The film parodying the romance genre ended with the main couple forming this iconic pose from Titanic, staring into the distance dramatically before suddenly dabbing, much to the loud amusement of the audience. The parody of the horror genre ended in a similar way – the last scene shows the main character sprawled on the ground, at the mercy of a ghost that was simply dabbing above him, with only its flailing shadow revealing the fact.
The Indian Drama parody took a jab at the clichés of Indian daytime television serials, and their tendency to overplay the reactions of every single character in response to an event. The screen was flooded with ridiculous and rapid pans, cuts, and after-effects, reminiscent of PowerPoint transitions.
The parody of popular K-Drama Descendants of the Sun was equally hilarious, complete with bad lip synching and the usage of hilariously inappropriate props, such as a Taylor Swift cap to replace the army helmet in this memorable scene from the original.
Films heavier in meme-value included a short film set to the song ‘Take On Me’, and was reminiscent of several viral videos in that shots of members of the Year 5 batch were expertly edited to match the beat of the music. Music video parody TT offered recreated shots of a music video, set entirely in the RI campus.
All in all, Rewind V: Façade was an excellent way to spend a Friday night. Raffles Film Society truly proved their mettle with their showcase, and we at Raffles Press strongly believe that the ticket price of $2 severely understated the quality of films screened. Film is truly an under-appreciated art form, and in order to appreciate the sincere effort that filmmakers put into creating these labours of love, we strongly encourage all our readers to attend next year’s showcase.
Year 6 Thesis Films
- i. Directed by Vivienne Chong (17S06A) and Li Xueyan (17S06D), produced by Penelope Chua (17S03C), edited by Luo Sen (17S06O)
- What You Don’t See. Directed by Joshua Ong (17S06C). Crew: Chng Yi Hong (17S03L), Sruthi Subramaniam (18A01D), Liu Zechu (17S06L)
- Emergence. Directed by Jocelyn Khor (17S03Q), produced by Faye-Anne Ho (17A01A) and Monika Balaya (17S03D), edited by Liang Yuzhao (17S06G)
- Return to Sender. Directed by Gan Chin Lin (17A01B), produced by Timothy Fong (17A01A), edited by Cheryl Ng (17S06C)
Year 5 Interlude Films
- TT: Directed by Wayne Lim (18S07A)
- Take on Me: Directed by Elizabeth Xu (18A13A)
- K-drama: Directed by Hasif Salehin (18A01D)
- Indian Drama: Directed by Michael Chow (18A13A) and Angelica Ong (18A01C)
- Romance: Directed by Lim Li Ting (18A03A)
- Horror: Directed by Gan Chong Jing (18A13A)
The interlude films were edited by Michael Chow, Hasif Salehin, Gan Chong Jing and Lim Li Ting.