After being offered a job in Singapore, a young mother must try to decide if she will move away from the town of “Kampung Tapir” in order to pursue her dreams. The move means uprooting her family, as, although she wants to take her daughter with her, the husband wants to stay in the small town in order to help take care of the plantation run by his parents.
On her trip to Singapore, the bus carrying Anne and her husband get in an accident with a tapir. Instead of helping the endangered creature, the people get back on the bus and leave it behind. As Anne departs from her husband to go to her new position, she is reminded of the tapir, who drifts around in order to find a better place in a world that is closing in on them.
“Kampung Tapir” excels in creating a realistic atmosphere within its characters. All the interactions between the family members feel sincere, with complimentary cinematography that directs the viewer’s attention to its subjects in an intimate manner. The best example of this exists in the scene where the mother interacts one on one with her daughter, the scene feels lived in, and does convey a strong sense of family. Locations also take on a life of their own through the film’s visuals, as we get some beautiful shots of both the busy city and small town. These shots showcase the stark comparison of the landscapes while keeping a degree of romanticism for both locations. Perhaps, the only thing that hinders it slightly is the use of CGI for the tapir. The choice to use CGI makes sense, but it really takes you out of the moment, and the odd floating creature does somewhat take away from the rest of the superb visuals that make up the bulk of the production.
The film ends on an emotional strong note, which ties together the death of the Tapir with the protagonist’s own struggles. However, perhaps my biggest complaint within the short film is that the two incidents don’t feel entirely complimentary or equal. I came away with a deeper sadness for the plight of the tapir then that of the young woman, which I don’t feel was the intent of the film. This is where the run time does admittedly hurt the narrative of the film. With a bit more character development, the comparison between the protagonists and the Tapir could have been more solidified and having a deeper impact with a bit more development.
Acting can often be overlooked within these short films as there is not much time to establish character development. However, “Kampung Tapir” showcases some great performances. The interactions are intimate and are convincing in showing this as a real family unit. This is exemplified in the mother daughter interaction which feels very sincere. The interactions with the husband are a bit more awkward, but it is hard to say if that is performance or role written for. For a less experienced cast, as well as a young actress, the performances give the entire production a deeper sense of professionalism you would expect in a bigger budgeted production.
Aw See We’s third short film “Kampung Tapir” does show a director with a huge amount of potential continuing to grow on further productions. My issues with the short film rested with the use of CGI, and wanting a bit more depth of character to capitalize on the metaphoric narrative. However, given the multiple strengths of the production, I feel with a larger budget and/or run time that Aw See We is more than capable to hash out the shortcoming that came within the short film format. Director Aw See We’s talents could make for a strong feature length. Even if this is not on the horizon, his work in the short film format is also something to keep an eye on.
“Kampung Tapir”, although rough at points, is a great showcase of upcoming talent in Aw See We, it is more than worth a viewing.