Of the Youth Jury winning prize, it was to be awarded to “a piece of work that is not interested in grand gestures, but in silently weaving through the lives of its modest characters. In doing so, draws us close to their suffering, which are both at once private and transcendental, and providing faces for people we see as abstractions” (Zachary Tang, 2015). Heart and authenticity was at the heart of what we wanted. This statement more or less succinctly captures how we went about deciding the winner of the Youth Jury prize, which was awarded to Kavich Neang’s Three Wheels.
On a Sunday afternoon, the members of the Youth Jury convened at a top secret venue (just kidding, it was at SCAPE) to discuss and deliberate over the winning film. Based on what Chrystal and Amelia told us about last year voting process, we were expecting a Hunger Games-style bloodbath. Imagine our disappointment when the it came to a rather anticlimactic end within a grand total of one and a half hours, where we simply decided on the winning film by raising our hands to vote. Nevertheless, there was angst, there was impassioned pleading, and there were the mandatory snarky comments. Some short films were particularly divisive; some were well-liked but not particularly exceptional.
Many issues came up. Do we want to award the prize to the best short film? Or do we want to award the prize as an encouragement to the director to keep going? Do we take into consideration how the short film has performed in other film festivals? Or do we judge the short film solely in the context of SGIFF? Do we take into consideration the other works of the director? Or do we let the short film speak for itself? Will our prize even matter at the end of everything? What about issues of representation? Yeap, those were some tough questions we had to answer. In addition, May, one of our mentors, threw a curveball at us the day before by raising the issue of emotional resonance of a short film and how that would factor in on our jury decision.
We ended up choosing the film that had heart and emotional weight, combined with a distinctively “Southeast Asian” social and historical context. Three Wheels effortlessly captures the sense of alienation and distance felt by an ageing couple that were forced to marry during the Khmer Rouge’s regime. It does so without any pretension and with stunning simplicity, the film feels more like a peek into their lives than anything. It might not stand out compared to some of the other short films, but it told a straightforward story with much heart.