Whether we live next to strangers in a large metropolis or we’re isolated in a rural area, the desire to be understood or to reconcile the feelings of isolation are universal. From pursuing romantic love, to hanging onto destructive friendships, to confronting family history, to caring for a pet or oneself, the characters in this collection of short films demonstrate the innate need for human connection in beautifully expressed ways.
In 15, our troubled Singaporean teenage heroes live in a world where your friends are everything; therefore putting everything at risk. Here in Canada, our Banana Boy struggles to find a balance with his homeland, family and sexuality. From Korea, Chapter 2: How to Breathe is a coming-of-age depiction of a farm boy’s relationship with his pet and family, against a backdrop of civilization’s impact on nature. The Anniversary is a powerful dramatic piece dissecting the anguish of a Vietnamese family breakup and pain caused by the government on its citizens.
Royston Tan | Singapore | 2002 | 16MM | 17:00 | Colour | Canadian Premiere
15 is inspired by true-life accounts of three troubled 15-year-olds. Feeling ostracized and self-destructive they seek worldly pleasures to cloud their inner insecurities. The consequences of their actions are often painful. Violence and decadence become their realities, and family seems to be a source of pressure instead of relief. This film shows the harsh reality of struggling Singaporean teens who have nobody but themselves to hold on to.
Awards: Finalist, 2002 Singapore International Film Festival locals hort-film competition; Silver Award, 8th Hong Kong Independent Short Film & Video Competition
Royston Tan has been a prolific short-film director since his days at Temasek Polytechnic. His award-winning films have been showcased in film festivals worldwide, including festivals in Paris, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the U.S.. Tan was named the ASEAN Best Director of the Year 2001 in Malaysia.
Your World, My World (Er Ren Shijie)
Low Ngai Yuen | Malaysia | 2003 | Video | 10:00 | Colour | Canadian Premiere
She tells him that there is no future in their relationship because she drinks Evian and he drinks tap water. He doesn’t get it, and at first, neither do the viewers. But in the end, we do, and we pity him for not realizing it. Teenage sexuality in a punch line.
Awards: Best Short Film Award and People’s Choice Award, Stella Artois Starlight Cinema Singapore Short Film Festival 2003
Low Ngai Yuen currently hosts 3R, a television program aimed at women’s empowerment, in Kuala Lumpur. Your World, My World is her first film.
Banana Boy (Heung Jiu Jai)
Samuel Chow | Canada | 2002 | Video | 7:00 | Colour | Director in attendance
A beautifully rendered first-person examination of the sense of home and belonging of a “banana boy” – someone who embraces Western (white) ideas and culture underneath his Asian (yellow) complexion. Samuel Chow reflects on the life-changing experiences of coming to Canada, coming out, and his quest for freedom.
Samuel Chow was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada at age nine. Banana Boy, his first film, premiered at the 2003 Inside Out Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival.
Chapter 2: How To Breathe
Hyung-Suk Lee | South Korea | 2002 | 35MM | 21:00 | Colour | Canadian Premiere
This film is full of surprises. A boy’s dog is easily frightened by the noise emanating from a nearby shooting range near the family’s farm. The method that he uses to calm his pet is unconventional, and how he learns this method is even more controversial. Yet there is no doubt that civilization is taking a toll on the life of this innocent little farm boy and destroying part of nature. Chapter 2: How To Breathe features beautiful shots of serene landscapes and provides a glimpse into an idyllic lifestyle. A must-see for nature lovers.
Awards: Sun Je Fund (Best Short Film), Pusan International Film Festival 2002
Hyung-suk Lee was born in 1972. He graduated from Yonsei University, majoring in journalism and communication. His short Templementary (2001) won the Best Film and Audience Award at the Pusan Asian Short Film Festival. Chapter 2: How To Breathe is his second short.
Ham Tran | USA | 2003 | 35MM | 28:00 | Colour | Canadian Premiere | Director in attendance
A poignant assault on war told through the story of a monk’s mournful experience. Life in Vietnam as children before the war is contrasted with the cruelties of being grown-up soldiers. The pain of separation and trying to survive that war brings to family relationships is immeasurable, but Ham Tran’s suspenseful narrative is able to peel off each bitter layer until it is stripped to the bone. The vibrant yet meditative mood of the film is enhanced by its cinematography. With The Anniversary, Ham Tran emerges as the next rising director from Vietnam after Tran Ahh-Hung. This film is eligible for the 2004 Academy Awards for best short.
Awards: Grand Prize, 2003 USA Film Festival; Special Jury Prize, 8th Brazilian International Student Film Festival, 2003; Luna de Valencia de Oro-Grand Prize, 2003 Cinema Jove Film Festival, Spain; Best Short Film, Oakland International Film Festival, September 2003; Best Short Narrative, 2003 San Diego Asian Film Festival; Best Long-Form Short Film, 2003 Sacramento International Festival of Cinema
Ham Tran was born in Vietnam, where he lived until his family immigrated to the United States in 1982. The Anniversary completes his M.F.A. directing degree at the UCLA School of Film and Television. His past films, The Prescription and Pomegranate, have both received much recognition, including nominations for the Student Academy Awards.