Going to the video stores was fun and "a bright kind of moment in my childhood that I felt compelled to capture", 26-year-old Edward Khoo recalls fondly.
Video Store, one of the three commissioned short films screened at ciNE65 2021's launch at Singapore Discovery Centre today (Nov 27), is Khoo's homage to his childhood memories of frequenting video stores with his father, veteran film-maker Eric Khoo. He also credited it for the beginning of his passion for film-making.
In the three-minute film, the main character, Sofie, reminisces about conversations she had with customers who have come and gone through the years of her time growing up in her mother's video store.
Reflecting on his choice of the setting of a brick-and-mortar video store, a rare sight in Singapore nowadays, Khoo told AsiaOne that he believes that such physical spaces provide a community for people to "come together over a shared interest in films", where they are able to go beyond the easy access to on-demand films, and "not rely on algorithms to recommend [films to them]".
He seems to have some form of affinity towards exploring themes of nostalgia and time in his previous films such as Late Shift and Corners. Khoo chuckles, admitting that he has never realised this, since it comes "unconsciously" for him.
Video Store is no different either.
Sofie's reimagined conversations with the customers, keeping it present and alive in her memories is Khoo's way of "expressing something we want to experience again", which ties in with the pandemic, where social distancing measures have prevented many forms of physical connections.
This reinforces the theme of ciNE65 2021 — 'Stronger, Together'. Organised by Nexus, Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and media entertainment company mm2 Entertainment, ciNE65 2021 calls upon local film-makers to reflect on stories of Singapore and explore how Singaporeans can overcome difficulties and move forward as one Singapore, united and working together.
This is especially apt during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the premiere, ciNE65's alumni Lan Yu and Yahssir M also shared their short films.
Lan Yu returned with A Cat's Purpose, which discusses an unlikely relationship formed between a rough sleeper and a neighbourhood cat. Inspired by an interaction with a rough sleeper while being overseas, she said that this film is her way of attempting to discuss the complex issues of the homeless in Singapore.
Her previous film, $ingapura, won the Best Overall Film Award in ciNE65 Movie Makers Awards 2019.
Recalling her experience with ciNE65, she felt that it was a "great learning experience for her", where she was able to pick up "networking and learning opportunities that were otherwise hard to come by".
Meanwhile, Yahssir M — who had produced a ciNE65 short film in 2015 — explored themes of resilience and strength in Super Girl. The main character, Devi, goes through her journey to get stronger with the help of others in her community.
He hopes that just like Devi, this year's theme will inspire films that "can shed light on how Singaporeans have found various ways to cope and pull through difficult times together".
Father and mentor
Khoo, who collaborated with his father on Video Store, said the experience was a privilege and mentioned how ciNE65 has provided him "with a chance to work with [his] father in a professional capacity."
While he enjoys having a father who enjoys the same thing as he does, Khoo admits he has some big shoes to fill. However, he is not too worried about doing so.
"I am trying not to think about it too much, [rather] I am embracing that," he explained.
This may be the first time Khoo is taking part in ciNE65 but he is encouraging aspiring film-makers to attend its workshops, which are conducted by veteran local film-makers, producers and writers to help them develop their film-making expertise.
These free workshops, available for anyone who is interested in the art of film-making, echo Khoo's light-hearted yet motivating advice for budding film-makers in Singapore.
"Film really isn't hard, you just need to have something to say, and the rest of it is just about process and having fun. Have fun lah, have fun while making shorts at least," he quipped.
The commissioned short films will be released one each day from Nov 28 on ciNE65's social media platforms.
ciNE65 2021 also includes a short film competition ciNE65 Movie Makers Awards (ciNE65 MMA), film-making workshops and seminars, and a film festival. ciNE65 MMA will be open for submissions from Jan 1 to March 14 next year. For more information, go to ciNE65's Facebook page.