Category: Exhibitions

Raffles Photographic Society: 50by50

By Ina Song (19S07C) and Chloe Wong (19S07C)
Photos by Chloe Tan (19S03E) and Melvin Liam (19S05B)

Held at Dhoby Ghaut’s Visual Arts Centre, 50by50 was an exhibition of works created by members of the Raffles Photographic Society (RPS). The Year 6s were given a box measuring 50 cm by 50 cm – hence the name of the exhibition – to merge their photography with. In their words, “To make truly great art, one must think outside the box. (…) What creative challenge – or opportunity – does the box present? Does the box restrict, provide structure, or take on a completely unexpected meaning? Is the box simply a frame or can it add to or enhance the photograph?”

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Rewind IV: Final Cuts – Film Showcase 2016

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.

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Snippets of Imagination: Film Showcase 2015

By Alex Tan (16S03B) and Karen Cuison (16A01D)
Images courtesy of Raffles Film Society

Directors of the thesis films taking questions.
Directors of the thesis films taking questions.

When prodded for his greatest takeaways from Snippets of Imagination, chairperson of Film Society Jiaxin Xu (16A01A) quipped that they would probably be the four tubs of ice-cream left over from the showcase. Even though we were not invited to share in the luxury of consuming the delectable confectionery, we were still thoroughly impressed and charmed by Raffles Film Society’s annual showcase. From a behind-the-scenes view of Raffles Runway’s annual fashion show, RE:Collections, to a series of five-minute shorts, and half-an-hour epics, there was something for everyone in the Performing Arts Centre.

Year Five Special Films
A selection of teasingly short films made by Year Fives started the ball rolling. Some were downright cryptic, consisting solely of short clips interestingly juxtaposed, featuring urban cityscapes and black-and-white shots of plaster legs. Others were more easily identifiable and narratively tight, arousing deserved laughter from the audience. A film that documented a friendship grown exclusively on Whatsapp, making real-life interactions impossibly awkward, was notable.

Film Society collaborated with Raffles Runway to bring a behind-the-scenes view of Raffles Runway’s annual fashion show, RE:Collections. The skilfully crafted shorts premiered at RE:Collections, providing insights into the processes of ideation and creation. It was a refreshing change inserted smartly in between the Year Fives’ Feature Films and the Year Sixes’ Thesis Films.

Y6 Thesis Films
The feature films by the graduating batch of Film members left the audience in the Performing Arts Centre scared, stunned, sad, and in stitches, in that order.


The female protagonist (Emma Lau), before tragedy befell her.
The female protagonist (Emma Lau), before tragedy befell her.

Travelling on a budget? So were they, and renting a long-unused apartment seemed like the perfect solution. But all is not as it seems in the house. Will you be enjoying your stay?

Possessed kicked off the string of feature films with a most innocuous-looking printer, spitting out a booking confirmation for a budget HDB flat. The aptly selected soundtrack stitched together an atmosphere of foreboding and impending disaster from the beginning. This atmosphere was cleverly sustained throughout the eight-minute film – with whitewashed walls, much ambiguity, and gore scenes composed so well they looked discomfitingly like paintings. The frequency of frames shot from the characters’ backs, coupled with the jerky camera movements, contributed to the constant eerie sense that they were being watched by an invisible, supernatural force awaiting its opportune moment to pounce upon them. Although the film abounds in archetypes of its genre (other than its quintessentially Singaporean setting), the effective buildup guarantees that when the jumpscares arrive, aided by masterful special effects they pack plenty of lasting force and shock, fully and satisfyingly. All in all, Possessed was very successful, and its chilling ending, like any other good horror film, promises the horror’s continuity.

Directors: Allan Zhou, Fabian See
Cast: Joel Seow, Emma Lau, Allan Zhou

A Locked Room

Kyle (Katrina Jacinto), on the verge of a new breakthrough.

Kyle runs an online murder mystery interest forum where users post different crime scenarios and other posters try to solve it and hence improve it, just for the thrill. A particular anonymous thread catches Kyle’s attention. A seemingly real unsolved murder mystery which promises clues only when the right questions has been asked. Will Kyle solve the mystery? and IF she does, what will that earn her?

With its beautiful cinematography set to appositely spine-tingling tinkles, one quickly arrives at the sense that much art was woven into the shooting of this short film, much care taken to intricately establish each scene. Everything has an air of the vaguely disturbing, from the grotesquely bright mythical beasts and uncannily painted faces of Haw Par Villa to the haphazardly scattered books and noddingly mirthful deity in Kyle’s flat. Mystery so pervades Kyle’s existence, that even her moments of interiority revolve around poring over her online murder mystery forum, puzzling over unsolved enigmas. Watching the human presence of Kyle pacing through static surroundings, the sole incarnation of aliveness amidst death and hell, one wonders, with a lingering sense of dissatisfaction: how did Kyle come to solve murder mysteries? What life does she lead beyond these pursuits? What kind of person is she outside of her unwavering detective instincts?  These considerations aside, viewers thoroughly enjoyed the film as it builds with finesse to its horrific conclusion.

Director: Yuki Pan
Crew: Alethea Tan, Priya Ravi, Edina Loo
Cast: Katrina Jacinto and Megan Lourdesamy

The One You’ve Never Met

Preparing for his sister’s arrival.

A story of a boy who learns that his sister has six months more to live. Inspired by a true story.

The premise of The One You’ve Never Met had plenty of potential for poignancy. The film documents the development of the relationship between siblings Aiden and May after the latter finds out she has cancer. Unfortunately, this film stops short of achieving its intended effect. Any height of genuine emotion was dimmed by over-sentimentalized music, histrionic outbursts and an unrealistic script. Many of the lines bluntly tell what could have been more subtly shown, such as when May, frailly lying in her hospital bed, tells Aiden that his effort in visiting her everyday has been “pretty touching, actually”. Yet one finds details which provide brief flashes of pathos. After May’s sudden passing, Aiden remembers that her voice was inadvertently recorded in his small contraption, her presence manifested like a spectre in that tiny object. As a powerful symbol of the unexpected things people leave behind after their deaths, these redeeming moments remind us of the truth in the true story upon which the film is based.

Director: Lorraine Fong
Crew: Linette Chan. Lim Jingzhou
Cast: Gary Huang, Celeste Tan

A Canon of Proportions

Student and teacher side by side.

Who treads on your dreams? Paul and Felix, everyday boys in everyday modern life, hide secrets beneath their separate veneers. As their facades unravel under the influence of a hard-headed teacher, questions linger- what are they striving for, and for whose sake? Shot mainly in long, uninterrupted camera takes lasting up to 7 minutes in length, ‘a canon of proportions’ chronicles their efforts in dealing with individuality, modernity, and the remnants of an antiquated philosophy.

The first thing that stood out in A Canon of Proportions was its cinematography. Long, sprawling takes endowed the most mundane setting ever – school – with a majestic unfamiliarity. The estrangement, it seems, was part of the plan, fitting in impeccably in a plot about two boys questioning the veneers that living in modernity necessitates. On a deserted rooftop, Paul says, “It’s just not who I am … all this standing under the spotlight, all this nodding in the corridors when people walk back and forth, and I can’t stand it anymore.” Several lines later, his counterpart replies, “I’ve always wanted to produce something meaningful.” Although the film’s latent momentum was maintained in a balance of physical movement, humour and dialogue, the protracted stretches of Nietzsche-infused dialogue was heavy-handed and a little too self-indulgent. The subtlety and dimension of the film was, however, delightful. One can only speculate at, for example, the fate of Felix, who disappears at some point, or the homoerotic subtext between the various male characters in the film. Overall, Canon’s perplexity made for a rewarding – though at times vexing – viewing experience.

Director: Andrew Chen
Crew: Zhang Yuchen, Jeremy Tian
Cast: Gabriel Ng, Hethav Siva, Ariwan Kai

For us (and, we believe, many members of the audience), Snippets was an eye-opening opportunity to view conflicts and concepts through the able and sensitive cinematographic lenses of our peers. We would love to enjoy it again, with ice-cream next time.

Reflections on re:collections

By Heather I’anson-Holton (16A01E), Alex Tan (16S03B) and Karen Cuison (16A01D)
Photos by Li-Ann Hoong (16A03A) of Raffles Photographic Society

Snaking ticket booth queues stood testament to the high level of anticipation surrounding Raffles Runway’s Singapore-themed spectacle. Aptly named re: collections, it celebrated Singapore’s 50th birthday and Runway’s 10th year as an official CCA.

Audience members were greeted by delicate paper moons and stars suspended from the entrance of the Albert Hong Hall. Puffs of dense smoke permeated the entire room, undercut by vivid, shifting beams of multi-coloured light and a throbbing bassline courtesy of DJ AK. Two strips of blue fluorescent light flanking the runway took it from drab to dazzling. The show’s shimmering, otherworldly atmosphere was a clear indicator of what was to come.

Psychedelic pre-show lights (photo: Raffles Runway Instagram page)

Outfits followed loose themes, including urban isolation and entrapment, comfort and change. The photo booklet created by Runway organized the garments by times of day. This ambiguity created the impression of a lack of cohesion – but this was understandable, with so many designers with diverse styles. If anything,  the ambiguity stimulated dialogue, giving audience members the space to interpret garments freely. The diversity also showed the magnitude to which Runway took to their overall theme, reflecting the individuality of the Singapore experience.

Workmanship was generally of a high standard. The garments showcased a breadth of technical expertise: from the pleats and braiding in Xiao Wei’s dress (15S06J), to the intricate beading in Teo Kai Wen’s (15S03H) poufy garment, each piece demonstrated delicate craftsmanship and a careful eye for detail. Ang Xue Ling (15S03F) mentions, “Some people managed to finish theirs over the December holidays, and some took a whole year.”

Photo 1.
A bright, well-constructed orange maxi dress. (Designer: Xiao Wei)
Photo 2
Intricate beading, immaculate poufiness. (Designer: Teo Kai Wen)

Designers’ interpretations of the SG50 theme were varied and refreshing, personal yet relatable. At the same time, the clothes resonated with one another, linked by their common inspiration. Some designers made use of tangible, recognizable icons, but the results were anything but predictable. Lim Wan Ling (16A01D) juxtaposed a city skyline against a lake to stunning effect, while Lim Ee Sing (16S07B)  tastefully drew upon the MRT system to create a costume that looked simultaneously familiar and alien.

A garment inspired by Singapore’s skyline. (Designer: Lim Wan Ling)
A quirky twist on our MRT system went into the designing of this dress. (Designer: Lim Ee Sing)

Other designers employed more abstract ideas. Megan Goh (16A01D) tried to replicate the ‘comfort and safety’ of HDB flats in designing her cape dress with soft, pastel fabrics. On the other end of the spectrum, Huang Zhoudi (15S06J) chose to highlight Singapore’s darker side with her gothic garments.

Soft colours reflect the comfort and safety of the HDB flats which most Singaporeans reside in, in this dress designed by Megan Goh (16A01D).
Gothic glamour from designer Zhou Di.

re: collections featured thoughtful collaborations. The senior batch of Modern Dance put up an energetic, dynamic performance, while behind-the-scenes clips from Film Society demonstrated an acute sensitivity to the mood and intent of the artists. It also lent the audience a glimpse into the clamour before the glamour – including, but certainly not limited to, setting up audio-visual equipment, planning venue layout, and liaising with lighting technicians. Overall, both collaborations lent edge and unity to re: collections.

Modern Dance at re:collections

If there was anything we had to nitpick on, re: collections took a while to hit its climax, making for a sleepy and somewhat awkward first twenty minutes of the show. In addition, many of the menswear pieces seemed to take on a similar structure – loose cape over ordinary collared shirt and black pants.

The process of putting the show together was not without its challenges. For one, designers had to consciously transcend common, literal and too-dogmatic interpretations of a seemingly limiting SG50 theme.

“Quite a few people wanted to use the Supertrees as inspiration, and initial sketches had very obvious signs of them, like veins in red running down the fabric. The design itself wasn’t bad, it’s just that we asked the designer instead, “what do you feel about Gardens by the Bay? What do you feel about Supertrees? Is there any other way to express a Supertree other than literally taking the veins of the tree on a dress?” From there, it changed.”

Irene Tee (15S07D)

Surely, fashion would not be fashion if it were not provocative, and re: collections had its fair share of controversy. During the matinee show, a model walked down the runway in a white varsity-style top studded with red sequins that read “Peace Love Happiness” on the front, and a large “50” on the back, coupled with glittering golden shorts and similar knee-high socks. This prompted a noticeable increase in buzzing and murmuring from the audience, who mocked both the model and the piece, and circulated pictures on social media.  Not wanting their model to have to suffer the repercussions of a subversive design, the golden shorts and socks were substituted for black, more neutral tones during the evening show. Runway laments the audience’s response, expressing regret that they could not support and showcase the work of all artists.

Guest designer Mudassar Ahmad (15S03A), who was behind this bold costume, told us that he aimed to marry the celebration of national values and the dismantling of masculine stereotypes. Whereas “peace” and “happiness” are tenets of Singaporean society, familiarly embedded into the pledge we take daily, “love” is not as prominent. “I feel like in our society we don’t really give much for loving people, just for them being people,” he opined. When queried about the audience’s uncalled-for response, Mudassar expounded on his idea of fashion as a form of art, and art as a vessel of change in society. “I think it’s precisely because people aren’t ready that there’s all the more need for us to step out and make a statement, because that’s how change happens.”

In her closing address, teacher-in-charge Ms Janissa Soh summed up the show best, urging the audience to see RProject as a process rather than an end: “The designers started this process to get us thinking and looking at our own society. I’m not talking about other people. I’m talking about you and me. How have we contributed to this society? How have we made it cold, white, harsh? As we start this process, as we start SG50, we hope all of you can join us to take a moment to reflect.”

Rewind II: Life in Technicolor

by Jovi Tan (15A01B)
Images courtesy of Raffles Film Society

I am going to borrow from the closing remarks of Gong Haoran, Chairperson of Raffles Film Society, to begin talking about Film’s recent showcase, Rewind II: Life in Technicolor. He compares the array of films on show to the black-and-white, 3-second long, stop motion experiment, the Horse in Motion (‘Sallie Gardner at a Gallop’). It is a series of photographs compiled in 1878, dynamically depicting a man galloping atop a horse, and is often considered one of the first silent films.

For many of the filmmakers at the event, this is their virgin attempt. Much like Eadweard Muybridge, many of the filmmakers are in a stage of excited experimentation, eager to figure out just what kinds of magic can unfold beyond the lenses of their video recorders. In some instances, they stumble over their ideas, or are clumsy in navigating the terrains of storytelling, but as Haoran elucidates, these limitations are something they can be proud of. Really, these shortcomings are inconsequential when compared to the immense honesty, energy, enterprise and hard work that undergirded each film presented at the showcase.

Held at the Arts House, seven films were showcased in a homely and cozy screening room, namely: Home Ah Long, Frozen In Time, He is a Friend of Mine, Love x Death, Heart Disc, Spire, and Letters from Home. Spanning different genres, each short film was impressive in their commitment to telling a story. Whether it was a quick-fix comedy, or a moving drama, there was an authenticity that surfaced. Each filmmaker showed an awareness of the genre, playing to their strengths and, overall, creating a strong set of enjoyable short films, and an enjoyable Saturday afternoon.

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The protagonist of Frozen In Time, played by Bill Teoh

The first thing that strikes you when the first short film begins is the impressive technical quality that audiences sometimes overlook. When the camera pans, our eyes pan comfortably with it. In many instances, the filmmakers get the lighting just right, and the effective use of music serves to enhance the experience. At first glance, few would be able to pick these out as student-created films. In particular, Spire by Brandon Ong and Xie Peiyi displayed a sound competency in video editing and special effects. As Brandon and Peiyi describe in the post-show dialogue, video editing is often arduous, and the fact that Spire lapses between reality, and a fantasy sword-fighting realm makes their effective storytelling even more impressive. To be able to not only imagine, but also crystalize their comic-esque fantasy world is nothing short of a feat, testament again to the concentration and variety of talent in our midst. In Frozen in Time, by Wu Jia Min, the filmmaking is well able to caress the nuance in the actor, Bill Teoh, who is convincing as a dementia-stricken old man. The scenes are crisp and yet manage to be continuous, highlighting the craft of the directors and videographers. Though some of the dialogue is lost to poor sound editing, the effect on the audience is mild, and is mostly made up for by the apt use of music.

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A still from the trailer of Heart Disc

Another aspect that I personally appreciate is each filmmaker’s attempt at honest storytelling. The stories mostly have an element of fiction, no doubt, but this honest storytelling is rooted more in the fact that each filmmaker says what he/ she means, and is unafraid to do so. In Home Ah Long, the story included bits about Ah Longs playing Monopoly for money, which for me captured a lightheartedness, and a willingness to take on the absurd. Heart Disc by Wu Jia Min, on the other hand, sought to present a somewhat typical boy-meets-girl romance, and yet dared to include snippets that were visibly personal, which would differentiate it from a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. It is a comfort when, instead of borrowing jokes and tropes from the long tradition of romantic-comedies that came before, filmmakers instead use humor that is funny to them, without too much fear that it would not be quite so funny to someone else. The idea that ‘bump file sharing works on organic beings as well’ is evidence of the inventive wit some of these filmmakers possess. In Letters from Home by Ang Zi Yun, some of the footage was gathered on the filmmaker’s personal trips to Australia and England. It is very evident that each filmmaker comes from a place, or a perspective. The fact that none of these filmmakers abandoned these perspectives, but rather embraced and immersed themselves in them was both brave and effective.

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Raffles Film Soc’s first action film concluded on a rather bland note

It is no coincidence that the most honest pieces were the ones that managed to move audiences the most. While every film had an evident personal touch, some moments still came across as contrived and uninspired. In a particular scene in Letters from Home, the protagonist is at a phone booth phoning her sister overseas, and in the process conjures an elaborate spiel about hope. In the final scene of Spire, a corny message about love and how we sometimes don’t notice it fades out before the credits roll. In Love x Death by Claudia Chu, Tan Yan Ru, and Wang Yan, the bone-shuddering plot twist at the end was chilling for all the wrong reasons. Instead of focusing on the stories they wished to tell, these filmmakers sometimes felt the necessity to force a moral of the story, or a plot twist, when in fact, storytelling can and should be simple. In the end, our creativities can betray us but our experiences cannot. As director Wu Jia Min shared at the post-show Q&A, some parts of her film was inspired by the fact that her grandfather was afflicted with dementia. Some of the more honest and moving dialogue was pebbled into Frozen in Time, whereas other films were not as able in crafting convincing conversation. In fact, the dialogue can sometimes appear stilted and scripted, which can be very distracting.

Nonetheless, Rewind II: Life in Technicolor was thoroughly enjoyable, and was another piece of evidence of the sheer talent and ambition of Raffles Film Society. Though Haoran speaks of the Horse in Motion to remind us all of Film’s inexperience, the Horse in Motion is all the more powerful because it depicts us moving forward. Film has managed to straddle its limitations, to present a coherent and charming showcase, and we should all look forward to their next one.