As such, while the film undeniably has Tzang’s signature treatment all over it, the execution though did come off more as a student project to allow his largely student crew a first hand experience in making a film, never shying away from dabbling with special effects that worked in some moments, while others did come off as slightly raw. But no venture no gain, and hopefully Tzang did manage to influence some of the students to further explore the technical competencies required in filmmaking, and hopefully we do see a fresh crop of graduates skilled in both the art and science of genre and fantasy filmmaking as the years move along, possessing no fear in tapping onto their imagination to tell stories.
And a fantasy sci-fi story this is, with a group of what’s termed as Fairies of Misfortune having to spend time on earth as self-proclaimed agents of change, possessing supernatural powers that remained under wraps until an action filled final act. In the meantime you get plenty of philosophical talk between Fairies, and a scientist who had captured one of them for further research, the former who unwittingly discovers a weak point in the chinks of the Fairies’ armour that provides for an upper hand in negotiations, or so he thought. Ah, the follies of the human being.
In some ways this short film also served as a showreel of sorts to demonstrate the raw energy that the ITE students bring to the table. Granted not all aspects of this film is as polished as Tzang’s earlier works, but you’d realize that perhaps one of the best and more direct ways of learning is to walk the talk. And at times I felt the techno-babble came on a little too strong for the actors to grasp, that their rote memorizing of lines unfortunately rang through to take some shine off their performances. But it more than made up for it with some incredible VFX stunt sequences for a modestly budgeted film.
Still, for its objectives set forth, V1K1 managed to have the Tzang rubber stamp in concocting a tale of the unconventionally engaging, and one wonders just how different this would have turned out with if the writer-director had a much larger budget at hand. For those who are keen to catch this, you can do so this Thursday at Sinema Old School, and details of the encore screening can be found here. - Stefan S.
Part of a new breed of Singapore filmmakers, the alternative film director Tzang Merwyn Tong tells F*** about his vision and his latest sci-fi project, V1K1 – A Techno Fairytale.
By Lisa Twang
Excerpt: How did the V1K1 film project come about?
As an adjunct lecturer at ITE College West, I was approached to direct a short film using a student crew from the Digital Audio Video Production course. We called ourselves the Dreammakers Lab. The goal was to introduce the first-time movie-making experience to these students, and inspire them with the process. But it was these students who ended up inspiring me. Their energy and enthusiasm was highly infectious, and although many of them were touching equipment for the first time, we made a wonderful film that we’re all very proud of.
How would you describe your audience?
Brave, intelligent and curious. Brave and curious because it takes wonder and courage to buy a ticket or DVD for something outside the mainstream; and intelligent, because my films tend to ask questions, that requires the audience to do a bit of thinking themselves!
In your first film, e’Tzaintes, you played a character named W. Ashe Faeke; a makeup-wearing, poetry-spouting goth prophet. Is he your alter ego?
As Faeke, I’m a social outcast trying to rally other misfits into my “world of nonsense and whatever.” I suppose I do share his illusions of grandeur; I believe you have to be somewhat delusional to stay passionate about something. But in reality, I’m a lot less flamboyant than Faeke; I’m actually quite a shy person.
Also, I am not an anarchist at all, but a pacifist! My new film, the FRVL project, is essentially a critique on rebellion. It questions a generation of teenage idealists and activists, and it’s very ambitious. It’s something I’m working very hard to get off the ground, and I’m looking for brave souls who understand it and are willing to invest in it.
As a filmmaker, what is your greatest fear?
Passion. The truth is, I’m worried sometimes that I will be consumed by the films I make. I always put in 200% of what I have; so much that I lose myself completely. It’s something I have to be careful of as a responsible human being. When passion takes over over, I’m afraid I will lose it all by sacrificing myself and real things that are important to me.
V1K1 opens at Sinema Old School 21st April 2011. Pre bookings of tickets can be made here through tix.sinema.sg, You may RSVP on facebook too.
'The indie film-making scene in South-east Asia has been thriving which is evidenced by the strong presence of independent films from the region in the programmes of international film festivals,' notes Karen Chan, acting director of Asian Film Archive, a non-governmental and non-profit organisation founded to preserve the film heritage of Singapore and Asian cinema.
'This is particularly so in the past five years; South-east Asian film-makers have been recognised for pushing the boundaries of film-making, imbuing cinema with refreshingly unique voices and vision,' she says, adding Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia have all made a major impact on the arthouse scene in recent years.
Local art film buff Norman Loong says, 'Compared to mainstream cinema, indie films are more exciting; no two films are alike, the storylines are always original and th
The growth is also evident from the number of screens now dedicated to art films.
From just one venue in 1997 when The Picturehouse launched, there are now other speciality halls of various sizes like Sinema Old School, Cinema Europa and The Arts House that screen indie movies on a regular basis.
'The Picturehouse has always held a special interest in Asian art films especially since we are the first theatre in Asia to dedicate an entire hall to arthouse cinema,' says its spokesman. 'We believe some of the best films in the world do come from Asia.' Among some of The Picturehouse's upcoming attractions are Anh Hung Tran's highly acclaimed big screen adaptation of Haruki Murakami's novel Norwegian Wood and Hindi film Road, Movie.
'Lighthouse has come to be Singapore's 'home' for Takeshi Kitano's films,' says Chia, referring to how well-received the Japanese actor-writer-director's works, including last year's Outrage, have been. Negotiations for its sequel to be screened here later this year are on the cards, he reveals. '(The late Malaysian director) Yasmin Ahmad's Muallaf was also a success in 2009 but it did not come easy as the film-maker and I had to put in a lot of effort to promote the film in the virtual and real worlds,' Chia adds.
The problem is worse for Asian independent directors because the audience base is not big enough to sustain an already niche genre.
Gathering momentum: HK's Derek Tsang co-directed Lover's Discourse (above left, starring Kit Chan and above right, Jackie Heung and Mavis Fan), which earned its stripes premiering at the Pusan Film Festival and travelling the promotions circuit before recently opening on general release in Asia.
'Every time I release a movie, I lose money because of the advertising and promotions, so I'm not sure if it's worth it, even though I would love to show it at home', Unce Boonmee's Weerasethakul tells The Hollywood Reporter.
'The population of Hong Kong is not like the St
Citing the example of Wong Kar Wai as an exception, Tsang explains, 'There's a misconception people have about Wong; he's an artist first but he's also a very smart businessman. His market is different from a lot of other Chinese directors because his films get released in a lot of different places in Europe and he makes a lot of money from there.'
Others like local underground director Tzang Merwyn Tong says independent film-makers remain at the mercy of the gatekeepers - distributors, exhibitors, censorship regulators and festival programmers.
'Being an independent film-maker is really about a spirit; it can be heartbreaking trying to make your way through a world that will give you more reasons to give up than continue,' he says.
Tzang, however, beat the odds and enjoyed worldwide success with his movie A Wicked Tale, simply by giving it away.
'The movie took a life of its own after I allowed a group of German teenagers to screen my films in their underground film festival. It became a little bit of a surprise hit, with audiences asking for copies to bootleg it. I gave them permission to do whatever they wanted, and before I knew it, different groups of people were screening it to different audiences in pubs, clubs, house parties and venues, in Berlin, Potsdam, Munich and Frankfurt,' reveals Tzang.
'Film-makers like David Lynch are making movies and posting it on YouTube or their own websites so a lot of people who used to go to cinemas for art films are getting them from other sources instead,' he says. 'The game for film-makers now is not whether you want to be arthouse or commercial anymore; it's how you want to tell a good story and where you want to find that audience.'
'I've learnt that a film with its heart in the right place will somehow find its rightful audience,' says Tzang. 'You just got to be rock 'n' roll about it.'