Memento Mori, Memento Vita: An Evening to Remember

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by Camillia Anum Mohamad Ashraff (24S03B), Calyss Ng (24A01A)

Photographs courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society.

What would you do if you were locked in a room with a zombie?

That was one of the questions Raffles Film Society set out to answer on 28 July 2023, during their annual film showcase.

Following the theme “Memento Mori, Memento Vita”, the showcase focused on remembering the inevitability of death whilst remembering life. The films and documentaries explored this wide spectrum of themes – from exploring Singapore’s hidden gems to literal death. This evening was a culmination of the Y6s’ hard work, for them to finally present their passion projects to an audience.

The showcase started with a documentary by Chloe Lau (23A01D), titled The Secret Society of Cats. The lighthearted documentary was filled with adorable felines and brought viewers through the process of fostering cats and putting them up for adoption. It was undoubtedly a highly informative and educational piece.

The following documentary was A Grandfather’s Memoirs by Mark Wu (23S07A). This heartfelt and cinematic piece took the audience through Mark’s grandfather’s journey as a published author and his relationship with writing over time. He used to write constantly, which led to him publishing 36 books over his lifetime. But as he grew older, he started to wonder if he would be able to continue writing and publishing. This touching piece reflected the theme of the showcase strongly – it served as a tribute to his grandfather’s successful career and life.

In between each item of the showcase, two Y5 emcees kept the audience engaged with witty jokes and commentary. When they introduced the first thesis film of the evening, the excitement and anticipation in the room was palpable. At long last, viewers would finally be able to watch the films that had been teased in the lead-up to the showcase.

Shriya Satish (24S03N) and Kang Ming Kee (24S06L), our very sporting Y5 emcees, dressed up as a character from each of the Y6 thesis films.

A Dying Art, written and directed by Karina Soetama (23A01F), was nothing short of stunning. The film utilised various angles and lenses – such as a fisheye lens with quick camera movement – to create a uniquely tense atmosphere. The hyperrealistic visual effects makeup made the zombie seem straight out of The Walking Dead. The audience was fully invested in this film, cheering for the protagonists and gasping when the zombie appeared. All in all, it was a thrilling film that simply felt too short.

The Y6 crew behind the thesis film ‘A Dying Art’ poses with their poster and atmospheric recreation of the set.

After such an exhilarating experience, the documentary by Alison Tan (23S03A) provided a much needed breather. Quiet Corners explored Singapore’s lesser-known bookstores from the peak of their popularity to their current state. The piece provided insight into the various challenges and experiences that come with working in these bookstores for a long time.

Finally, to end the showcase was the second thesis film, Bonsai by Mark Wu (23S07A). The shots and scenes were reflective of Mark’s style as a director, with various peaceful stills captured throughout. The film explored an elderly woman’s bond with a volunteer as she reminisced about old memories, and grew to embrace her life as it was. It was a deeply touching piece that brought tears to the audience’s eyes and allowed us all to reflect on the inevitability of death whilst still enjoying life.

The showcase was followed by a Q&A session with the Y6 Film Society members, where the audience had the opportunity to ask them anything about their films. Despite having had their fair share of challenges, there were memorable stories to tell. The Bonsai team faced a power outage at the end of their shoot day, which effectively locked them all inside their shooting location. A Dying Art had difficulties finding suitable actors and only cast one of their characters two days before their first shoot day.

Mark Wu (23S07A), the director of thesis film ‘Bonsai’, explains how the team convinced his uncle to lend them his house for the shoot.

Both directors emphasised the need for practicality in film, and being adaptable to produce their films. “I wanted to instil the message that life can be rejuvenated and a life in deterioration can still be a life worth living,” said Mark about Bonsai. Karina, on the other hand, chose to make a more lighthearted film because it made the process of filmmaking more enjoyable for her. A Dying Art centred around the concept of ‘ego death’, which Karina best describes as a line from her film: “An ego dead is as good as dead.”

When asked about their hopes for filmmaking, the Y6s were generally optimistic. “If I could make big bucks, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” Svanika Vivekanand (23A01E) joked. Some were more sentimental, saying they hoped to make films “with [their batch] again.”

The staff and students of Raffles Film Society 2023 gather for a celebratory photo after the screening.

Overall, the showcase was deeply insightful and a wonderful display of the talent that the Y6 Film Society batch has. Memento Mori, Memento Vita was a success on all accounts and a thoroughly enjoyable experience for the audience. Raffles Press eagerly looks forward to next year’s showcase!

The showcase booklet can be found here:

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