High on life, full of laughter, cackling critical innuendoes as in a carousal, our youthful, blossoming critics’ minds probe and flow with ideas – oftentimes like the gushing of spring, we approach the moving image with feelings fluid as air, curiously fondling the variant.
We have come thus far, together, as a dynamic group of friends to acknowledge our growth and humble achievements as youth critics at 2014’s Singapore International Film Festival.
We have voted as a jury to award one of the most outstanding Southeast Asian short films, shook hands with debonair directors, and rubbed shoulders with brilliant actors.
But just seven weeks ago, in the name of Criticism, we were still fumbling with definitions, stumbling over particulars, and enduring a hunger that went rumbling by noontide.
“A critic must be emotionally alive in every fibre, intellectually capable, skilful in essential logic, and then morally very honest.” – D. H. Lawrence
One of the challenges of becoming a critic was uttering valid, not too convoluted thoughts, authentic enough for every reader to relate to.
Another, was finding that one true voice to speak through, which was tricky enough for some of us.
When writing my first drafts, I was hesitant to even hint at the subtle “I” who clearly has seen a film through discrete lenses, and relate honestly of that intimate experience.
Alas, subjective is a suspect technique for most of us schooled in rigorous academic writing. A film critic, afterall, would need to differentiate herself from a vehement viewer given free rein to communicate strong opinions (on the internet).
It was not surprising at all that some of us Youth Jurors, who until – pointed out by one of our mentors – recently, were completely unaware of our own distinct voices!
Imagine: The realization of the sound of your voice as you listen to it on a sound recorder for the first time. Cringeworthy at best, but you come to dance with it in its peculiar tone of putting things into perspective.
We couldn’t have figured these out without the constant tending, (caffeinated) watering, and cheering from our beloved trio: Nikki Draper, Lai Weijie and Chrystal Ng. They acted as our managers, overall mentors, and editors to our articles. If they could comment further, they would confirm that we were indeed fiendish at play but serious and wholehearted in our practice.
Other mentors, expert in their respective fields, would engage us on differing weekends – Dr Stephen Teo with theory, Dr Kenneth Paul Tan with socio-politics, and Yong Shu Hoong with journalism, to name a few. These workshops plumped up our critical and creative buds, giving us a deeper and fuller insight into film criticism.
We were finally pulling together all the pieces of Criticism into a coherent whole by the last workshop with Kong Rithdee, who challenged us to reconcile the evaluative and appreciative stance of the cinephile with the theoretical disposition of the intellectual.
Through it all, we have found that:
Criticism, above all things, is an expression, a creative and careful exercise that attempts to capture and communicate, in its coherence or incoherence, visions inherent in a particular film to an affected audience.
I recall Day One:
We receive an introduction from Festival Director, Zhang Wenjie on the integral ecological role of the film critic within a film-infused community.
It makes even greater sense now—
If you could have only seen the tremble of pure excitement in us; neophytes walking out of our virgin preview of the Southeast Asian short film programme. Or hung out with us in the restrooms, as we broke out into tight huddles over what a pair of binoculars with lace overlay could mean for mankind…
You would then understand the thrill and fervour, finally, of engaging with real people – Alive! – And their breathing art.
It dawned on us gradually that we were shouldering a great responsibility. We were dealing with the World.
We were writing for a Community!
And we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly at that.
The journey with SGIFF and an expanding film community has opened our eyes, minds, and hearts to endless possibilities held in the palm of the film form. We are thankful for the invaluable opportunity to have worked alongside a dedicated festival team, learnt from devoted artists and lovers, and soaked up the aura of the famous and wise.
It was a great honour to have captured and contributed to a flourishing film scene for a moment – and we hope to continue pursuing our love for cinema always!
As we bid farewell, we hope the Youth Jury 2014 will continue to inspire and welcome the rest of the world, especially the young!, reading, watching, and writing, to come experience and talk about Southeast Asian cinema with us for many years to come.