Fifteen and Royston Tan
oh yeah, i was going to post something over the weekend re: seeing Royston Tan's Fifteen for the first time (as well as Cut, which was hilarious, and pointed, and deliciously well-written -take that, Board of Censors!) as well as the discussion that followed.
i have to say that i think Fifteen is a very good film -choppy, and perhaps a little hard to follow at times, but very real -the expressionless expressions in particular really got to me. these young boys who should have everything and everyone left to live for, forced to find a sense of belonging in a twisted sort of world in which they have just each other. where the notions of loyalty and friendship and love are paramount in their everyday lives, because all they have is each other, and who will stick up for them if not their brothers? someone raised the point that there aren't any women in this movie -at least, not beyond a very tangential sort of existence- and perhaps that is the point -it is a study of the relationships that build a gang, not the relationships that gang members have with the rest of the world, if they indeed have them. they are secondary.
at the same time, i was thinking -as people seemed to be asking questions about why make this movie- that it's nothing really NEW, which is kind of sad. in most metropolitan areas in the world, you have inner city gangs. (correlation, for sure, causation, perhaps.) because it seems almost inevitable that you are going to get poverty, broken families, disassociative children, abandoned children who bond together because they only have each other. it's the same story told over and over in different languages in different parts of the world. the weapons they carry are different, and their targets are different, and perhaps they deal in different methods of crime and death. but ultimately, they are all the same gang, bound together not just for economic reasons but for social ones -human beings are pack animals, after all, not solitary ones.
and also, i had to ask the question of ethics. you know, it's sort of like watching a wildlife documentary on the Discovery Channel. in the same way that the cameraman on the safari adventure in Africa can't step out from behind the camera to save the gazelle from the cheetah, the filmmaker -Royston- can't step out from behind the camera to stop these kids from doing what they do -piercings, stealing, beating up other kids. (before anyone screams at me: yes, the movie itself is acted out, but hey, he followed these kids for two years to get the material for the movie ok?) otherwise, the movie isn't true to their lives; it doesn't tell us the real deal. the problem is the subjects aren't gazelles and cheetahs, but human beings. don't you run up into the same walls that stop us social scientists -the economists, the political scientists- from setting up experiments on human behaviour? i don't think i could have stayed behind the camera; if i could have stopped these kids from hurtling headlong into self-destruction, wouldn't i -ethically- be compelled to do it?
all right, that's all i've got to say about Fifteen at this point -time to go bury myself in The Crisis of July 1914.