“Youth Jury, meet the filmmakers. Filmmakers, here is our Youth Jury. This lunch is for all of you to mingle around. Enjoy!”
As we streamed into The Palette at Capitol Piazza for lunch, we passed by tables with filmmakers already comfortably in conversation with each other, with some occasionally bellowing in hearty laughter. The Youth Jury sat together at a separate table, casting awkward *shifty eye* glances around. One member, (bless that person) broke the silence “Erm guys, shall we order food first?” The usual Youth Jury banter and laughter returned as we scanned through the menu. Let’s just say we ordered an “impressive” amount of food.
At the risk of this piece turning into a food review instead of a film article, I shall move on so we can all feed and chew on the thoughts of the filmmakers. After lunch, we shuffled to different tables and introduced ourselves to the filmmakers whose films we had seen in-competition in the Southeast Asian Short Film programme. All our worries were unfounded as the ice was quickly broken through a shared love for film. Many of the filmmakers excitedly exclaimed, “Oh you watched my film!” and shook our hands.
One of the filmmakers I spoke to was Sai Naw Kham, who directed The Crocodile Creek. He chose to make this film for two reasons. Firstly, he found the creek very interesting. The story of the creek is rather popular in Myanmar and many people know about it. What struck him most was the environmental degradation taking place in the creek, and he wanted to help raise environmental awareness in Myanmar through film. On a side note, he also shared, “I just saw the Singapore River. It is very clean.” He spent four days researching along the creek and one week shooting the film. He actually found one of his interview subjects by accident during the production phase, when he was “filming images of rubbish on the creek, saw her in the distance in a boat collecting rubbish and approached her to be in [his] film”. Secondly, he also wanted to experiment with the art of storytelling, by mixing “lyrical narrations” with current documentary-like images.
Sharing on how he got involved in film, “a relative from a big state brought a camera and taught [him], from a small town, how to use it”. He found the process interesting and later worked in the media industry as an editor. After two years, he heard that Yangon Film School was looking for people from “small towns” and different ethnic groups and he applied for a place. The Crocodile Creek is his final year student project. From the Shan ethnic group, he finds film very important to his community, as it allows “them to see the world, and for the world to see them”.
A few of us also huddled around Gladys Ng who patiently stayed on after most of the other filmmakers left. Her film, My Father After Dinner, later won the prize for Best Singapore Short Film during the Silver Screen Awards. She candidly shared that she chose to apply for Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Film, Sound & Video course because she “did not want to take anymore exams”. Looking back on her development, she felt that she only “really developed and matured” during her university years at the Victorian College of the Arts in Australia. Speaking on the importance of film to Singapore society, she said, “Cinema can help liberate us in our imagination.”
Besides discussing their films, we also digressed and shared our thoughts on other films we got to watch at the Festival. We excitedly high-fived when we found out we liked the same film, we laboured on about why this or that film perhaps fell short of our expectations, we celebrated, we commiserated. The boundary between filmmaker and youth juror fell away and we all sat there together. At heart, we were all little children eagerly waving tickets to the cinema.
The Filmmakers Meetup made me realise one thing—behind the stories they tell through film, are people who also have their own stories. Through this week, we have been writing articles after articles analysing and evaluating the films they have made. This Meetup made us stop for a moment and appreciate them simply for who they are.
PS: If you have not read our previous articles, I’ll… I’ll give you one more chance.