Arts & Culture

Perspectives Film Festival: Challenging what 'Institution' Means

Expectations and why they are worth challenging.
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Perspectives Film Festival is an annual event that helms "breakthrough" films that are curated to a different theme for each edition. The four-day festival is organised and curated by undergraduates from the faculty of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

This year's theme, Institution, is a timely one since today is a world full of change. Be it in gender rights, the shift in conversation of rape culture, sexuality and even the government, has been on a steady momentum of nuanced discussions. More voices are able to be heard with the help of social media, and this change may be difficult and uncomfortable, but ultimately good. The films curated this year bring this necessary discomfort onto the film screen, dating all the way back to 1970, and will carry this conversation further - that institutions are ultimately made to serve the people and will always remain challenged.

Festival Directors Miss Claudia Loo and Miss Lee Yi Jia share with B-Side on their roles, censorship and a film they would like to recommend as part of this year's line up.

Share with us a bit of what you study at NTU, and how you found yourselves as Festival Directors for Perspectives.

YJ: Claud and I are both majors in Communication Studies in NTU. Personally, I have been gearing my studies towards more film-centric courses, which is why I eventually found myself taking on Perspectives Film Festival. In case you didn’t already know, PFF is offered by the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) as a practicum module. I was very drawn to the course, so this is actually the second time I’m taking it, haha. Why I chose to be one of the Festival Directors this time was because I really wanted to the push the festival beyond that of a module, hopefully allowing it to leave a deeper impression on the local film-going scene.

CL: I entered WKWSCI wanting to get into publication design, so I took more journalism and advertising modules in my first year and kept photography and videography as side hobbies. I took my first film module in year two, and that’s where I started to marry my background in events and project management with film production. I’m usually the producer or art director for film projects and I’ve done a few art events before Perspectives, so I wanted to combine these skill sets and channel them into one last event before graduation.

Camera Buff (1979)

As a student-led film festival, how does the curation process of films go about? Is there issues with censorship?

YJ: We had a strong team of programmers and writers who ploughed through films to curate a lineup that we all deemed to be fitting of the year’s theme. This meant they spent countless hours watching film screeners, contacting distributors, and working through the process of acquiring the rights to screen the films for our local audiences.

CL: Regarding censorship, the chosen films still have to undergo the classification through IMDA since it is a public event. But other than that, I don’t think we’ve run into any problems. During the curation we didn’t think too much about the rating, and we weren’t looking to be controversial with our programme either. The committee focused on selecting films that showcase our theme, and we ended up with a lineup that covers a range of institutions.

Song of the Exile (1990)

How do you draw yourselves apart from festivals such as SGIFF?

YJ: I don’t think we consciously try to set ourselves apart from other festivals because there are soooo many film festivals in Singapore (I think we have 50!) and
they all have different focal points. Perspectives helms itself on programming films that have “breakthrough” qualities, so even though our theme changes each
year, we actively out for titles that are boundary-pushing. Other festivals focus on different things (could be on language/culture like the Swedish Film Festival,
Iranian Film Festival etc).

CL: We’re also a student-run festival, so that’s pretty different! We’re all learning, and in a way our audience gets to learn with us.

Bamako (2006)

Tell us a bit more on the theme of this year's festival, and its relevance today.

CL: This year’s theme is ‘Institutions’ and we wanted to challenge people’s expectations of what that means. We don’t want people to only look at institutions as something bad. If you take a step back, you’ll realise that we’re surrounded by institutions, and they help make sense of the world around us. Even the aunties and uncles negotiating for vegetables at the wet market are guided by a certain unspoken etiquette, and that in itself is an institution.

Stations of the Cross (2014)

The films this year don't really feature works from Southeast Asia. Is there a particular reason why?

YJ: Perspectives’ programming standard often seeks to include a diverse range of films, so we don’t specifically look out for films within the region. I think one of the beauties of the festival is that our audience gets to watch films from really distant lands, and in a way, making these geographically inaccessible films more accessible for Singaporeans. This year, our programme includes titles from all over the world, from places as far as Poland (Camera Buff, 1979) to somewhere more familiar like Hong Kong (Song of the Exile, 1990).

3 Faces (2018)

A film you strongly recommend catching at the festival, and why.

YJ: Check out A Woman Under The Influence (1974), screening at the National Museum of Singapore on the 28th of October at 1:30pm. It’s a film which falls under our institution of marriage, and it explores the relationship between a woman struggling with mental illness and her husband. The film will be screened in 35mm, which is always a treat for the audience because you don’t always get to watch films in its film print.

CL: I’d say look through our lineup and see which one speaks to you. Whether it’s politics, religion, or nationality, I think audiences first have to open their minds to be able to take away something from each film.

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