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Dharma Movie Review: 15
"15 is the best film to come out of Singapore in years" -Time
Sypnosis: The multiple-award winning film charts the
misadventures of five teenagers on the fringe of Singaporean society.
Abandoned by the system, they seek answers to their aimless existence
among the misfits and outsiders of Singapore’s underclass. A provocative
film acted by real street kids, it exposes a gritty side of modern-day
Singapore life that many never knew existed. (More details)
This review was written months before 15 was approved
for general public screening.
If you observe 24 hours or a complete day in the life of the seemingly
most evil person in the world, you might see the sad side of his life,
and suddenly realise that his misgivings are forgivable, that he is
the person most lacking in love, most deserving of love, in the world,
by the same world which forgot him. It is because we see only bits
and pieces of a person that we pass judgment unnecessarily, wrongly.
No one is absolutely good or evil.
The multiple award-winning 15 portrays the true daily lives of a group
of Singaporean 15 year old gangsters. It echoes resoundingly their
aimless and neglected worlds, their misunderstood anger, hidden sadness
and vulnerable defensiveness. It is a story of misfitting in a system
that abandoned them. Rebels with lost causes, foul language is their
language, "going" school is skipping school. Self-annihilation and
mutilation is their emotional venting tool, drugs and alcohol their
hopeless escape. These youths are seen as threats to to our society,
which fails to see the reasons that drove them to these activities.
Perhaps it is indeed their choice, but is there a choice for them
otherwise when they decide to turn over a new leaf?
After the encore screening at the 2003 Singapore International Film
Festival, the film-maker Royston Tan stated that Shaun, one of the
boys, had decided to return to school... but all the schools' doors that
he knocked upon rejected him, ridiculously advising him to undergo
a $10K laser tattoo removal treatment before consideration of taking
him in. Perhaps this $10K would be better used in a public campaign
to laser-remove the shallow notion our society has that pictures on
the body equals unpardonable evil. This leads us to wonder how sincere
our teachers were when they taught us the cliché of "Appearances are
not important" and "Never judge a book by its cover"? How deep is
going by face-value implanted in our society? How appalling it is
to know that schools seem to care more about reputation than a needy
student's plea for education. Have we forsaken the very reason why
schools were set up at the first place? Have we stained the noble
ideology of our forefathers who built schools to educate all who are
willing to learn? It is unthinkable to imagine how any educated person
would close door on one who yearns to be educated.
How can we expect unforgiven youths to forgive an unforgiving society?
Is the double-standard system not driving these boys to a bottomless
pit, to a point of no return that the system itself hypocritically
condemned and advised all to avoid? Because of the system's double
standards, some are forced to waste their lives away. Such shame it
is that life is deadend-ed when it has barely begun! Does the system
reduces or reinforces judgementalism? Does it embrace unity in diversity?
Does it further ostracises and sustains the curse of social castes?
If education begins in school, let us educate NOW! It is never about
how many A's students can achieve, for they are our flesh and blood,
not a glory scoring board. Education is about imparting wisdom and
knowledge to every single student who is willing and able to learn.
An audience member during the Q&A session of the encore screening
highlighted the ironic fact that a film that most 15 years olds could
and should relate to was not rated for them - a deep pity that our
youth cannot learn from it. I agree. What is it about 15 that censorship
is trying to protect us from? Is there something we are trying to
hide from our own teens? If we cannot show the whole truth (without
cuts), how can we truly educate our next generation? This letter sincerely
beseeches the censorship board to make the film viewable for our youth
- for our better future... of a society that truly loves its young,
its forgotten ones.
(15 is now screening in Singapore with
5 minutes' cut. Shaun has secured a place in a school.)
"No being is hopeless. All have perfect Buddha-nature,
the ability to become perfect.
Let's give all a chance, and another, and another... as long
as chances are needed." -Stonepeace