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15

Singapore, 2004 (MIFF 2004, Regional Focus)

Director: Royston Tan

Singapore'Growing up in the world's most oppressive nanny state can be bad for your mental health, and 15 tells it like it is. 26-year-old Royston Tan's social satire has given local censors their biggest ever headache by focusing on Singapore's 'problem' boys: the ones from broken homes, the ones who smuggle drugs, the dropouts, the ones who obsess on suicide and tend to die young. But what could have been a grungy social-realist tract is actually a dizzying collage of teenage experience. It helps, of course, that the kids in the film are effectively playing themselves most of the time.

'Tan keeps scenes short and stylized, plasters the screen with captions and throws in everything from animation to fast rewinds to keep things cooking. Much of it is universal: gangs, video-games, bad role models, fake tattoos, crypto-gay bonding, piercings, self-pity, amateur rapping and so on. But Tan doesn't shrink from the dark side: he looks at teen suicides with wicked black humour, confronts the reality of self-harm, admits that boys prostitute themselves for pocket money. His introductory voice-over says it all: 'I only wanted to make a film of their lives, but in shooting it I've reconnected with a part of myself that I'd forgotten.' Vancouver Film Festival

D/S Royston Tan P Eric Khoo, Tan Fong Cheng WS Zhao Wei L Hokkien, Mandarin w/English subtitles TD 35mm/Col/2003/94mins

Royston Tan was born in Singapore in 1976. Films include: Sons (1999, short), 48 on AIDS (2002), 15 (2002, short).

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