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Utterly Good

by Amalina Haris

Filmmakers Sanif Olek and Don Aravind celebrating the screening of their short film adaptations for Utter 2014. Sanif Olek's Tin Kosong and Don Aravind's At Your Doorstep were short films that were showcased for this year's Utter 2014.
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Sanif Olek's Tin Kosong and Don Aravind's At Your Doorstep were short films that were showcased for this year's Utter 2014.

For the first time in Utter, local directors have adapted short stories in one of the official languages of Singapore.

Two of the best local filmmakers, Sanif Olek and Don Aravind, who are also alumni of Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), directed the film adaptations of short stories written by local literary writers.

The films are in one of the official languages of Singapore, and it is happening in Utter for the first time.

Utter is an annual pre-Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) initiative, which honours adaptations of Singaporean literary works into other art forms. Produced by Sinema Media, Utter 2014 featured four film adaptations of the selected short stories by local authors, from Jul 30 to Aug 3 at Golden Village VivoCity.

Sanif Olek
Olek directed Malay film Tin Kosong, inspired by author Muhammad Salihin Sulaiman’s short story, also titled Tin Kosong. The film revolves around Somad, who travels all around Singapore collecting empty tins to make ends meet, and meeting different kinds of people.

As a filmmaker, Olek felt that adapting Tin Kosong into a film “opens up [his] perspective and outlook of the Singaporean way of life”. Nevertheless, the award-winning film director did find it challenging producing the short film.

“The main challenge was to find a text [short story] that I could relate to emotionally,” he professes.

“You really need to be smart and sophisticated to identify what is it that you want to communicate with your audience and also something that the audience can relate to.”

– Sanif Olek

He adds on, “What makes me want to do Tin Kosong is because of the characters – [it] is something that I come across every day [at] where I live, in Jurong. These are the people that I meet, [and] talk to, and thus when I read Tin Kosong, somehow I just [became] connected with the whole story.”

Also as the man behind his very first feature film, Sayang Disayang, Olek shares that each genre of short and feature films has its own challenges. It doesn’t matter how long the duration of the film is, as a filmmaker still needs to ensure that the essence of the story is being conveyed.

“You really need to be smart and sophisticated to identify what is it that you want to communicate with your audience and also something that the audience can relate to,” he expresses.

Olek has made a name for himself, being awarded the ‘Best Director’ three times at MediaCorp’s Pesta Perdana and also for his television works such as the ‘Best Drama Series’ award for Kerja Overtime (After Hours) at Pesta Perdana in 2000. His Love Trilogy consisting of short films such as Lost Sole, À LA FOLIE and Ameen have also been showcased at international film festivals like the Hawaii International Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival and Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Don Aravind
Aravind directed Tamil film At Your Doorstep, based on Kalamadevi Aravindhan’s short story, Peaks . The film tells a story of a lonely widowed mother who yearns for the company of her son and his family.

“The whole idea was, those who enjoy literature would enjoy the book and [when they] come and watch the film, [they] should not feel disappointed.”

– Don Aravind

As for Aravind, his challenge in making At Your Doorstep was to ensure that the film is still “equated to the book [short story]”.

“The whole idea was, those who enjoy literature would enjoy the book and [when they] come and watch the film, [they] should not feel disappointed,” he justifies.

Aravind gained recognition for his short film, Ren Shao, which bagged several awards – ‘Best Film’, ‘Best Camera Work’ and ‘Best Edit’ at the Vasantham Short Film Competition 2012. The film took home the Best Short Film award at the ASEAN International Film Festival 2013.

Ren Shao was definitely Aravind’s most memorable work till now as it was a very personal film – a story about his best friend. As he puts it, “This film probably brought me to where I am right now.”

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