festival blog

NEW WAVES • In the Confession Booth: Truth and Grit on a Filmic Canvas

For the second session of New Waves, filmmaker Nelicia Low and poet Cyril Wong will be bringing us through their artistic process: the personal and fragile moments in life that have become triggers that led to an urgent need for self-expression, an act of confession through art. To give you a taste of the kind of secrets they’ll be spilling, take a look at the films we’ll be screening prior to the discussion.

You will be treated to Nelicia’s Freeze (冻), about a lonely middle-aged woman who’s trying to come to terms with the distance between her husband and her, by seeking comfort in her autistic brother. Nelicia will also present her Columbia schoolmate Russell Harbaugh’s film, Rolling On The Floor Laughing, which tells the story of two grown brothers returning home for their widowed mother’s birthday, only to find themselves competing with a new man for her affection.

These films illustrate the search for catharsis from the emotional trauma and complexities of their private familial life that most of us can empathise with, but would never have the courage to reveal in such a public manner.

Secret #1


nw-nelicia-confession boothThe more honest you are about your own experiences, the more relatable your film becomes.

Nelicia believes that “global issues are always changing, but emotions and emotional truth will remain constant”. With this in mind, she questions why there are one too many filmmakers who seem to tackle global issues that they may not fully understand, in order to make a film with mass appeal but lacking nuance. To tell an authentic story, one could instead mine from one’s own experience, in spite of how traumatic and shameful it may be. Through her films, Nelicia reminds us that sometimes, it is precisely our ugly truths that makes for a film that evokes genuine feelings.

Secret #2



The audience always seems to be an imposing influence to the artistic process, and it is rightly so when its social significance takes precedence. But in instances when artistic creation involves revisiting the fractures in one’s own psyche, how would the idea of audiences even surface?

“Artmaking transforms the grit of the individual life (in all its ugly beauty and terror-filled longings) into something more than just an aesthetically-pleasing anecdote for the rest of society to admire.” Cyril’s sentiments echo Nelicia’s, that despite how personal their motivations might be, we sense a common desire expressed in their work, one that necessitates a confrontation with lived experience.

Secret #3



As cinemagoers, part of the experience of film viewing involves reliving other people’s experiences, seeing them in uncomfortable situations, and not being able to look away from the inevitable train wrecks. When a film as intimate as Nelicia’s is being projected on screen, the thrill is heightened. Like it or not, we are co-opted into an experience that started as a secret, but is now shared by many.

It is the one socially acceptable form of voyeurism, and perhaps it is as transformative for us, as it is for the filmmaker. There’s safety in being an audience member in a darkened room, where everyone is focused on the bright screen and not each other. It invites you into a trance, one that suspends your own reality, and draws you into another. In these little moments, watching a film becomes your own form of catharsis, where experience begets experience, and the public and the private collide.

As a member of the audience, what would it reveal about yourself watching these films?

In The Confession Booth: Truth and Grit on a Filmic Canvas
Nelicia Low in dialogue with Cyril Wong
Date: Wednesday, 28 June 2017
Time: 8PM – 9.30PM
Venue: *SCAPE Gallery (Level 5), 2 Orchard Link Singapore 237978
Limited seats. Register now via Peatix: http://sgiff-newwavesjun2017.peatix.com