All In! Young Short Filmmakers Exhibition
by Lee Russell

I’m not much of a movie person but don’t get me wrong, I enjoy dropping by the cinema with friends/family for a 2-3 hour whirlwind of fun, action and drama just as much as the next guy. It’s just that sometimes, what Hollywood has to offer seems repetitive, built on the same tropes that have already been ‘scientifically’ proven to draw and impress crowds. Not that these tropes are blatantly recycled per se, they tend to be restyled to fit different themes and contexts in order to stay fresh. But at the core, I always get the feeling that I’ve seen ‘this’ before. Down at All In! 2017 though, the short films featured were nothing but the ‘same thing’.

Featuring the winners of the All In! Young Short Filmmakers Exhibition Competition last year, the exhibition comprised of 7 films selected from over 20 submissions. They were divided over the two main days of the event – Saturday and Sunday and I only managed to catch the first 4 on Saturday. Was it worth it? A resounding ‘yes’!’

It was hard to imagine that the films had been created by 13-25 year olds, young adults just like us, even if some of them were studying media in university. The quality of each film was fantastic, the cuts and shots professional. With the theme of depicting Asian perspectives and lives, I believe that another reason the films were so engaging was because they hit so close to home. 2 of them were based in Singapore, the other 2 in the Philippines. Their respective themes were delightfully diverse.

Of the Singapore-based ones, the first was about a schoolgirl confronting a suspicious-looking stranger at the elevator of her HDB. Her mother’s advice to ‘never take the lift alone with strangers’ resulted in a comical fiasco of exaggerated caution and misunderstandings. It really highlighted issues with filial obedience and a kiasi mindset. The second was about a schoolboy returning home after doing badly on a test. Subverting the common ‘Asian’ scenario of having him scolded by his father, however, it depicted his father encouraging him, using Singapore’s own journey as a nation-state as a metaphor to never give up. Though a touch unrealistic, I think that through its subversion, it made salient how we, as people from Asian communities ourselves, take for granted the potentially destructive behaviour of parents.

Of the Philippines-based ones, the first was a cinematic rendition of the moments between a girl and a boy in college. The skilful manipulation of the sequence of shots and scenes really brought to life the main character’s (the girl) innermost thoughts and feelings. It was beautiful and relatable, and I think anyone who has ever pursued a romantic relationship within Asian society will find themselves smiling by the end. Far from an idealised fictional romance, the film depicted the familiar everyday. The second was subtle and poignant – the tale of a schoolboy in poverty, struggling against all odds to care for his only family: his disabled mother. There were no fancy tricks, no hero-fication of the protagonist. Instead, we were simply taken through his life as it was and, through that journey, caught a glimpse of the lives of the unprivileged not far across the seas. It definitely made our first-world problems seem like trifles in the wind.

If it wasn’t obvious enough from the paragraphs above, each film left me awestruck, satisfied yet hungry for more. After the screening, we were treated to a panel consisting of the 2 directors of the Philippine films.  The ensuing discussion once again stressed how young these filmmakers were and really stoked my respect for them. They spoke about their pieces with pride and it was evident how much thought, effort and heart had gone into crafting them. So have I managed to make you interested in viewing them for yourselves? If so, you’re in luck! You can check out all 7 films at All In! 2017’s Youtube channel right here! And if the creative blood in you is bubbling after hearing about these talented youngsters, you can look forward to All In!’s next filmmaking competition which should be taking place around the end of this year as well! Hope you enjoyed the article, signing out.