By: Shalom Chalson
The Southeast Asian Short Film Competition provides an opportunity for filmmakers from the region to share their unique perspectives and compelling stories.Their films approach and construct the self in diverse and interesting ways. Some adopt a more grounded perspective while others attach themselves to the idea of absurdity. This piece is meant to portray an example of a mental space their images can form.Films covered:Vanishing Horizon of the Sea, (Chulayarnnon Siriphol, Thailand). The VHS medium is used to piece archived footage together. Presenting a strong political message, this film explores the meaning of life in times of war and destruction.Pifuskin, (Tan Wei Keong, Singapore). Pifuskin explores the fleeting nature of the human body and presents a search for identity. Discomforting sound and imagery are used to deliver its message in the form of a burning question.May Dinadala/ The Weight, (Giancarlo Abrahan, Philippines). A miner seeks hope in the form of a demon. He is confronted by his hate for his wife and love for the child she carries. Strong performances captivate while subject matter intrigues.Xing, (Bradley Liew, Malaysia). A dysfunctional relationship between a Malay gangster and a performer from China is portrayed in this film. Xing allows us to deeply reflect on our own relationships and the motivations behind our interactions with people.A voice speaks of being.It says that beyond the vanishing horizon of the sea, there lies meaning in death. People flicker like embers of a forgotten form. They also flicker like memories floating in a deep blue of lost dreams.
A person becomes an unperson.So what does the man, the captain in the white jacket, but also once a person, say to the sea when it screams? He says, “I will look you squarely in the face and I will declare myself alive.”There is no face, however.On beds where he once slept, there remains an old, burning VHS tape. Things he once ate have been left to snails. Old photographs are of everything but him. So when vocal cords reverberate, they reverberate for no one. When the sea screams, it mourns. To swallow is to erase the jagged little pieces of the remains of men or captains in white jackets.A phone rings in the distance.“Pifu.. Skin.You used to live in a house where mirrors would stare back at you. There is no colour where you live as colour is a luxury you were never taught to afford. You modelled your home after everything you’d seen but it is wrong; you are wrong.You notice that sometimes silences are met by the discomfort of truth. Also being met is the itch of an idea you are forbidden to have. Seated, you let fingers reach dying skin. Pulling at fraying ends unravels sounds that eat into you like questions asked in front of mirrors.‘Who am I? The spaces between my legs?’ No. But if you were a bird, you would hum. You would sing songs moulded from the clay of your being. The fluttering of your wings would be the melody to which you dance. But you are no bird; you are a person without a face, or a person with no story.”The man enters a house.He thinks, ‘if humanity was a needle, it would prick at desire’.Surely it would bleed into its own leviathan.Lost in a sea of her need and his want, the future pleads for innocence or love or hope. It does not yet exist but everything it is, does. They say that to be ‘with child’ is to be ‘without war’. The man, however, believes that to be ‘with child’ is to be ‘with woe’.When standing in a forest, he will look a demon squarely in the face and declare himself unable. When she screams, she mourns. Love is not a 9-month long expectation and the weight is no delivery. Love is a bat seeking a flame; the weight is a mother’s cigarette burning in defiance.So we sometimes look for comfort in the stars.‘Xing’ is one word for that.‘Sadness’ is another. Some sad songs are sung from clay you want only to consume. You are lulled into believing that a person can fill your old, unwanted spaces. If they were red, you would paint every inch of you. But red is not your colour.All you are is blue. You can neither fly nor swim, but your regret floats through the air. Blue is also the colour of that which engulfs you when tiny boats sail into the distance.Standing on the docks, you look out to a horizon far from anywhere you can exist.And when you look out into that deep away, here becomes the blur on which you stand.If there can be no ‘I’ without ‘not I’, there can be only nothing.