NTU Perspectives Film Festival

Perspectives is a curated film festival by the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI). It’s also a 4AU practicum course that counts towards students’ unrestricted elective credits. The grading for the course is based entirely on coursework and student performance in the practicum, and they can be part of the festival as festival management, programming, editorial, publicity & sponsorship, or design & IT.

This year, Perspectives is fully online, where attendees are able to view any of the eight movies at their own time from 23 Oct to 1 Nov. Its main draw other than its theme would be how many of the films are premiered in South-East Asia or Singapore, as well as having films that were released recently and hence not widely available.

The full list of films and more information on the festival can be found here or on their social media pages. Right now, tickets are going for $8 to as low as $5.60 per film if you purchase their bundle deal. Details can be found on their website and their festival booklet.

Though the film festival has revolved around the theme of Perspectives since its inception in 2008, this year, the theme is on truth. Specifically, different perspectives that help us gain a better understanding of what the truth is. This theme is particularly relevant in recent times as we face fake news and new ideologies that may challenge what we know. Personally, I’d like to recommend:

  • Talking About Trees to the cinephile and political activist

  • Feels Good Man to the pop culture fanatic and social media or meme-culture analyst

  • Videophobia as it strikes to be particularly relevant as we grapple with digital sexual harassment cases in Singapore

  • Incitement to the history buff and those particularly interested in how differing politics might be dealt with.

Other films that you might be interested in that are directed by women:

  1. The Metamorphosis of Birds is an introspective film that mainly highlights women’s lives in a family in Portugal, it also contains a political dimension such as colonialism and dictatorship. Its visual aesthetics reminds us of a vintage and less kitsch Wes Anderson.

  2. Farewell Amor is a drama film that focuses on migration to discuss what it means to be a family when you are separated. This is inspired by the director’s own family history and sparks discussions on globalisation and the idea of the global South.

  3. A Thousand Cuts is a documentary on the idea of free press in the Philippines and how modern social climates can affect politics. This might be especially relevant in Singapore when we discuss censorship and the idea of O.B. markers in journalism.

 

On the Film Festival

Pranamika Subhalaxmi, Programming Head

I’m sure that there were many films being considered for the festival. How did you decide what to choose?

P: We selected films based on their relevance to our theme of Truth – we wanted to explore it in terms of three pillars: how people construct their own truths, how truth can be manipulated and illuminating invisible parts of society. Beyond that, we were looking at programming films that would have an appeal for a fully virtual film festival. This year our line-up comprises only films from 2019 and 2020, with many of them being Southeast Asian premieres. This had a practical aspect in that they are not easy to obtain through other means, but also the new releases could also pose as a draw for an audience. Our programme also features a range of directorial feature debuts, because we wanted to introduce a host of fresh new voices to our audience.  

What were some challenges you faced? 

P: We had to consider the thought process of an online audience – what might they be looking for in their festival experience? What would capture and hold their attention? The usual festival experience is so different in that we are immersed in a specific physical environment, and the absence of that meant that we had to think a bit more creatively about what we as Perspectives could offer. We also had to adapt to distributor plans. I think we’re all familiar with the phrase “unprecedented times” by this point, but it did really hold true for us as distributors were also adjusting to the online festival experience. We had to let go of some of the films we planned to programme because distributor plans changed, which was certainly emotional when we’d grown so fond of these titles, but we learned to roll with the punches. 

What are some takeaways you hope the audience will have after watching some of the films in Perspectives?

P: We want people to consider the multifaceted nature of Truth, especially now when things feel so tenuous and fluid and it is getting harder to know what or who to believe. Our aim here is to inspire people to think harder about their own beliefs and what they are grounded in, as well as the way they engage with other people and their views. Hopefully, people come away from Perspectives with their minds a little more open and questioning.

We also hope that people come away with the understanding that festivals and film don’t have to be split into high vs low brow – art isn’t a binary, or judgemental. It's an expression, both emotional and intellectual, and above all a really beautiful experience. The films we have in the line-up are so diverse in the kind of experiences they present – they can be hopeful, funny, angry, critical, joyful, brooding, so on. I hope our audience comes away from our festival feeling more encouraged to engage with film, especially at film festivals which aren’t strictly for ‘film buffs’. There’s always value in engaging with art and trying to challenge ourselves, and I hope we’ve provided a range of films that allow for that.

Eternality Tan, Faculty Advisor

Please share what Perspectives means to you, having been part of this process for so long. 

ET: Perspectives was arguably the most important course I took in my undergraduate years—it opened my eyes to film programming, planning and organising for film festivals, which I am doing today professionally. I love being part of Perspectives as a mentor to students; working with youths energises me and keeps me mentally sharp.

What are your thoughts on the festival being online due to COVID-19?

ET: COVID-19 was such an unexpected roadblock; everyone around the world is still learning how to deal with it. The film industry continues to be badly hit, but if anything, the pandemic has accelerated the necessity to think ‘virtually’. How might organising a film festival online look or feel? How aware are we of the limitations and possibilities of the virtual sphere? These were two of numerous questions that this year’s batch of students had to grapple with. In a way, it was truly a unique scenario in the festival’s history.

 

On the Module

Ryan Lim, Co-Festival Director

If anyone on the team is taking up a role again (having organised Perspectives previously), why did you choose to do that? 

R: While students do get AUs for doing this practicum a second time, I never once felt like I was simply repeating what I did two years ago. The circumstances behind this year’s edition are obviously very different, and as a co-Festival Director, the first thing we had to do was to facilitate the very big transition of going virtual right from the beginning. When I took up the role of a co-Festival Director this time, I wanted to try something that was beyond my usual skillsets of writing about film. 

For those not from Wee Kim Wee — how was this experience? How does it differ from your expectations or things you do in school?

R: I’m one of the members of the team who’s not from WKW – my major is Linguistics, and other members of our team are English and History majors. In other years we’ve also had Design and even Business majors in the festival team. Being from a different disciplinary background does shape the way you see things. It’s doubly valuable that even as a unified team, we are able to retain those own individual perspectives (haha). But I daresay that we don’t really see the festival as being inherently ‘WKW’, if you know what I mean. There are parts of film curation and arts organisations that feel more familiar to Communication Studies, but even for many of the festival team members from WKW, the experience of doing a practicum in their own school is already different from taking a usual class. At the end of the day, organising a professional festival presents the same learning curve for everyone, regardless of what we’re studying. 

Darryl Cheong, Design and IT Head

If any students are interested in taking up this module, what would you like to share with them?

D: Shaping a festival entirely from scratch is no easy business. If you're truly passionate about films and yearn a curatorial experience styling up a full-fledged independent arts festival, whether it be marketing or programming arthouse films, I'd say it's worth a shot! You'll get to understand festival strategies and how important having a thematic anchor is when conceptualising a festival from ground zero. 

Share one thing you learnt or realised through organising Perspectives.

D: Working as a team, it's always important to understand the needs and interests of every team player. Conflicts happen, and in cases of stylistic decisions, it's inevitably hard to secure everyone's liking. I've learnt that it's good practice to disengage to engage and be open to criticism in order for progress to ensue.