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  • Art Forum reviews SNAKESKIN

    “Another successful experiment in hybridization was Snakeskin, which had its world premiere at Doclisboa, following director Daniel Hui’s winning of the Revelation Prize for Eclipses at last year’s festival. Documentary is crossed with science fiction as the sole survivor of an apocalyptic cult in the year 2066 meditates, via voice-over, on interviews and footage filmed in 2014 in his native Singapore. In its unraveling narrative, this unusual, thoughtful evocation of time travel probes one of history’s most complex sites of colonialist intrigue.”

    Travis Jeppesen, Art Forum

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  • Art Review on SNAKESKIN

    “Watching Lav Diaz’s epic five hour From What Is Before (2014) is like binging on a slow-cinema version of a soap opera box set, as Diaz theatrically restages his native Philippines’ 1972 revolution. Daniel Hui’s Snakeskin (2014) similarly acts to revise the history of the director’s homeland, Singapore, ambitiously rejoicing in the medium of film as a Chris Marker-esque agent of time travel and mythmaking, complete with a reincarnated cat.”

    Justin Jaeckle at Art Review

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  • 03-FLATS on Straits Times Film Picks

    03-flats on st

     “…on the surface the film seems to be about singlehood, ageing, public housing and the female experience. But slowly, mesmerisingly , a more complex and interesting picture emerges.”

    John Lui, The Straits Times, Life! Section, Friday, November 14, 2014

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  • Review: AS YOU WERE

    “Much more interesting, at least in terms of forms of expression, is the second feature of the Singaporean Liao Jiekai, As You Were. Discovered in 2010 with Red Dragonflies, Liao revisited issues of memory and the perception of the weight of the past in the relations between people. In particular, As You Were, built in three sections that oscillate between past and present, embroider on the crisis of a relationship, where the memory of a loving childhood sweetheart does not match the misunderstanding of this. There is something Antonioni about Liao’s approach – unfathomable alienation of his character. All this, however, is filtered through an aesthetic approach (deconstruction and fragmentation of the line of the story, elegant composition of the painting, minimal dialogues, layered sound) owing its influence to recognizably contemporary Asian Masters (from Hou, Koreeda, through Weerasethakul), including the attempt to entrench the discomfort of the protagonists in the connective tissue of the socio-political Singaporean – although presumably using the obliquity and metaphor. The result is perhaps too cerebral to move, but Liao is certainly a director to keep an eye on.”

    Paolo Bertolin reviews AS YOU WERE on www.mymovies.it (google translated from Italian)

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  • Indiewire on 03-FLATS

    03-FLATS featured on Indiewire as one of the best of New Southeast Asian Cinema in Busan.

    “The use of long shots from a static camera allows ample time and space for the eye to immerse itself in the setting: to notice the type of cereal on the counter, the strange way that hangers dangle from the kitchen cabinets. Some images loom with an eerie hints of temporal imprisonment. None express the monotony of a pendulum better than a close-up on a barred window shut off from the outside and sitting just above a bland clock ticking slowly, like the lulling rhythms of the film itself. In fully entering the quotidian intrigues of what transpires inside Singaporean flats, Lei Yuan Bin demands your patience.”

     

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  • AS YOU WERE on Lianhe Zaobao

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  • Review of Wormhole, Kopi Julia and Animal Spirits

    Read SINdie’s thoughtful conversations on Nelson Yeo & Yeo Siew Hua’s Wormhole and Tan Bee Thiam’s Kopi Julia.

    Read Jeremy Sing’s review of Animal Spirits by Daniel Hui.

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  • Review of Eclipses

    “There is no one I respect more than my audiences.”

    With that one gutsy punch line, 25 year old Daniel Hui opened his debut feature, Eclipses.

    There is no better way to start talking about the film than from its title – deceptively simple yet so rich with meaning and thought. Structurally, the film functions in two wholes, the first being an apparent fictional story about a woman (Vel Ng) mourning the loss of her husband; the second, where the woman disappears, splinters into a documentary about the people around her (Vel) and the filmmaker.

    Yet, save for the abrupt cut to black in the middle of the film that signals the film’s transition, or eclipse of the initial other, the film’s fiction/documentary dichotomy holds little bearing to genre defining labels. Here, the lines between documentary and fiction are blurred not because of the film’s apparent schizophrenia, but because the filmmaker sees little difference between the two.

    With Eclipses, Daniel seeks to make a film that transcends cinema or what little has become of it, rather than to conform. Cinema appears to have forgotten its roots as a medium to document, to listen, to simply, allow for its audience to see what they want to see rather than to tell them what to see.

    At its heart, Eclipses is a film that reflects a process that is deeply rooted in kindness. Daniel shares that Eclipses was made after a hiatus and disillusionment from filmmaking after the passing of his close friend, Yasmin Ahmad. Almost none of the film was scripted because Daniel simply allowed the performers to say what they wanted to say. Daniel did not want to be taking something away from his performers, he wanted them to be giving something instead. Eclipses listens to its performers because its filmmaker listens. In turn, the audience is put into a conversation with both the film and its maker.

    A common aesthetic thread follows through Eclipses from Daniel’s earlier films, and that is his wide use of the close-up. Two particular close-ups stood out for me – both of which were monologues, the first delivered by Vel Ng and the second, Daniel’s grandfather.

    Never before has cinema spoken to me in ways as such, and the experience from having two characters speak straight to you is both liberating and intimate.

    For all its merits, Eclipses is not an easy film to watch. It stretches the patience of its audience, and is more likely to speak to audiences who are not there to be entertained, nor to be told how to think or what to see. Like an eclipse that enters with darkness and leaves with light, Eclipses puts a banket over our eyes only to give its audiences and cinema an opportunity to be reborn again.

    http://sindieonly.blogspot.com/2011/10/eclipses-by-daniel-hui.html

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  • Dissanayake on “In the House of Straw”

    In the House of Straw by Yeo Siew Hua is not an easy film for a lot of people. Here’s a lovely introduction of the film by renown scholar and critic Professor Wimal Dissanayake from the University of Hawaii. He is also the author of Asian Cinema: An Anthology – Wong Kar Wai’s Ashes of Time, and Cinema and Cultural Identity.

    “Chris Yeo is a remarkably talented filmmaker who represents the best of the New Wave in Singaporean cinema. His first feature film, ‘In the House of Straw’ displays an acute engagement with society and cinema. Uncertainty , he seems to suggest, is a mark of modern life, and he seeks to capture this through the medium of cinema by focusing on the uncertainty of images both visual and aural. In other words, his cinematic style enacts his preferred theme.

    The interplay between displacement and replacement is central to the meaning of his film. From the displacement of meaning from the pig’s story to contemporary Singapore to the displacements in visual registers, one sees Chris Yeo’s interest in this binarism. The film ends where it began. However, we are not the same persons, and therefore the place we have returned to also has changed; the experience of the narrative has had the effect of transforming us all. Once again we see the interplay of displacement and replacement.

    Chris Yeo’s work has to be understood as an intervention into the regnant mode of filmmaking in Southeast Asia. He wants to bring about a change by moving away from the melodramatic to a more self-reflective cinema. He seems to be saying that we have the freedom to intervene in the national cinematic discourse, and more importantly, we do not have the fredom not to intervene.

    ‘In the House of Straw’ should compel all lovers of Asian cinema to observe Chris Yeo’s progress as a film director with great interest and hope.”

    In the House of Straw by Yeo Siew Hua

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  • Review of Red Dragonflies by Brian Hu

    “Nostalgia” may technically be accurate, but it doesn’t quite get to the complexity of Red Dragonflies’ poetic charge. Similarly, though cases can be made for each, “flashback,” “dream,” and “memory” don’t quite describe the images we see and the sounds we hear. No, we’re in the hands of a director for whom existing narrative language and art-film conventions are incapable of evoking the sentiments of loneliness in that brief moment when a view of a world is slipping away. In Red Dragonflies, an artist is briefly back in her homeland of Singapore after living abroad in New York. In tandem is a narrative of three high school kids delving deep into a jungle. There is a suggestion of a flashback structure, but past and present aren’t rendered in the usual visual cues of nostalgia or remembrance. Rather, past and present are the same shallow-focus dreamworld, where the sounds of the world –- a shopping mall drone, an air-con rumble, the echoing chirps of birds –- sear vividly into focus (thanks to a near-complete lack of background music). It’s as if the present isn’t the natural consequence of the past; rather, the two are chasing each other, running in parallel, haunting each other as memory, hope, loss, and conjecture. Only a few home video shots evoke the “past tense” in any obvious way, and these shots, in faded colors and with shaky camera, seem of another world altogether, shocking us further into reflection about how we are able to take stock of our past lives and present dreams. Red Dragon captures that marvelous fog of nostalgia, yes, but is also of reflection about ourselves in every tense. – Brian Hu

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