This year's Singapore International Film Festival is marked by a strong presence of lesbian movies, lesbian documentaries and women filmmakers. One of those women is the petite, soft-voiced, but feisty 31-year-old Sun Koh.
The game - invented by artists in 1925 - began with Sun directing a 10-minute movie. Subsequently, another director was asked to look at only the last minute of her movie and continue with the next 10-minutes of the movie. The game continued with each successive director until all seven directors have made their films.
The final result is Lucky 7, an ambitious mind-bending film that constantly twists and turns from a collision of styles, ideas, themes and genres. It is certainly one of the most intriguing Singaporean films ever made.
The seven filmmakers involved include gay multimedia artist Brian Gothong Tan, as well as the very talented Boo Junfeng, who is the curator of Short Circuit, an annual festival dedicated to LGBT short films. The other four filmmakers are Tania Sng, K Rajagopal, Ho Tzu Nyen and Chew Tze Chuan.
Four of the seven directors are gay. So perhaps not surprisingly, LGBT themes figure largely in some of the works.
Junfeng's segment, for instance, deals with a transsexual character and his/her relationships with loved ones. Despite the potentially racy subject, Junfeng's piece turns out to be the most delicate, graceful and transcendent part of the omnibus. I have rarely seen the issue of transgender identity treated with such tenderness and sensitivity.
Sun's own segment is a quiet and moving drama about the fate of a man who has to care for his bedridden father, while Brian's piece is an experimental dare that mixes live action with computer animation. Also very good is K. Rajagopal's abstract piece on sexual identity, persecution and mortality.
Tickets for Lucky 7, which is screening at the Singapore International Film Festival on April 5 and 12, have been selling well.
Sun, who started out in the industry 11 years ago, says she initiated the project because "we Singaporean directors are too isolated, working on our own instead of with each other." Lucky 7 came about because she wanted to see more collaboration - not competition for resources - between filmmakers.
She contrasts this situation to Malaysia where independent filmmakers such as Amir Muhammad, James Lee, Yasmin Ahmad and Tan Chui Mui routinely help each other out. They take turns to be, say, an actor or a cameraman or an advisor for each other's productions. In recent years, many of their films have won acclaim and top prizes at prestigious film festivals like Pusan and Rotterdam.
"Now take me, for example," she says. "I've been friends with Wee Li Lin (director of Gone Shopping) for years, but we've never had a chance to work on each other's set."
Co-director Rajagopal agrees wholeheartedly: "I've been making short films for over a decade, but I've always felt that I had to do it on my own, that I didn't really know anyone else."
From the looks of it though, Sun's Lucky 7 project has succeeded in changing the "lonewolf" mentality among the filmmakers. All of them played numerous roles for each other's segments, from art directing to sound recording to managing the catering.
Junfeng even came up with the beautiful story of a transsexual for his segment, because of the provocative images in Rajagopal's segment - that of a long-haired man wearing bright red fingernails.
Sun jokes: "This might be your only chance to see the film. Because with all the gay innuendoes, it'll probably never be shown on public screens again."
Fridae is proud to be a supporting media of the 21st Singapore International Film Festival. The festival will be held from 4 to 14 April, with free programmes and short films screening from 28 Mar. Booking through SISTIC starts 11 Mar. For more information, visit http://www.filmfest.org.sg.