“It’s not often that what we create as designers or artists get captured in film. It’s either in a museum, a gallery or talked about in small independent press,” said Felix Ng, Festival Director of A Design Film Festival (DFF).

That is why DFF, the first in Asia solely dedicated design, curates an “incredible selection of films that celebrate the design process and through a medium that speaks to non-designers” added Ng.

On Jun 15 and 16, DFF 2013, now in its 4th installment featured 12 documentaries that spanned across various design disciplines from the likes of performance art, advertising, architecture, photography and fashion design.

Organized by Anonymous, a local multidisciplinary studio, the screenings were held in a 421-seater theatre at School Of The Arts (SOTA), the newest home to the festival since Old School closed its doors after a 3-year collaboration with Anonymous.


Here are 2 films from the festival that UrbanWire particularly enjoyed:


Tema Hima: Time, Work and Life in Tohoku, North East Japan

Watch trailer the here

The hollow tapping on wood, zipping of thread through fabric machines, clonking of red hot metal, and even the squishing of glutinous rice coalesced to form a raw, undulated symphony.

These intrinsic environmental sounds were what you could hear from Tema Hima: Time, Work and Life in Tohoku, North East Japan. With minimal English subtitled interviews with the subjects themselves explaining the form of their work, the half-hour-long documentary flew by in a series of movingly simple images that spoke eloquently in a language universally understood.

In fact, if there’s anything the Japanese should be commended for, undoubtedly, it should be their understated obsession with craftsmanship.  Be it weaving a rattan basket, kneading fritter dough or forging steel to form pliers, the mostly elderly residents of North East Japan certainly exemplify the nation’s emphasis on high quality, handcrafted products. Instead of an open declaration of passion for their craft, the folks of Tohoku choose to endure the snow-riddled winters, working in a marvelled silence as though introduced to the art form for the very first time.

Making its world premiere on Jun 15 at DFF, Tema Hima first debuted last April at the Tokyo-based exhibition, ‘Tema Hima: The Art of Living in Tohoku’, hosted by 21_21 Design Sight.

Revolving around 7 traditional Japanese artisanal crafts, the work of directors Tom Vincent and Yu Yamanaka covers handiworks from cloth-making to basket weaving and food-related crafts like steamed leaf rice and apple crate boxes.

Beautifully encapsulated, the sheer dedication for their craft came alive in. Consistently emphasised across the crafts was the common sight of withered hands flushed with blood. Very apt in portraying handiwork at its highest worth, the handheld camera shots juxtaposed against beaming faces bonded the different crafts to impart the same essence: labour is proudly and willingly, not reluctantly, coaxed out of these people.

Tema Hima is a brilliant, organic and honest portrayal of the Tohoku folk that will inspire a newfound reverence for the unwavering discipline in sustaining customary crafts from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Rating: 4/5
Runtime: 33 min
Language: Japanese
Censorship rating: G
Genre: Documentary
Director: Tom Vincent & Yu Yamanaka


The Tents

Watch trailer the here

Apart from key fashion players like Vogue Editor Anna Wintour, stylist Rachel Zoe, fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier and blogger Susie Bubble, (and the list goes on), most ordinary mortals won’t find themselves witnessing backstage runaway chaos or sitting front row at New York Fashion Week. Before Twitter and Instagram became instruments of revealing the freshest Carolina Herrera gown to the public, the white tents at Bryant Park were the only place for invitation-only unveils to industry professionals. With the making of The Tents, just hit play on your TV remote and grant yourself a backstage pass to America’s highly anticipated fashion event.

“With the development of new technology and the expansion of media in having direct to consumer applications, the insider experience that the shows used to have just to the fashion industry– that exclusivity– has been expanded to include a much wider group of people,” said director James Belzer.

The Asian premiere of this uncovers the origins of the Bryant Park shows and its rapid progression to what’s now famously referred to as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Aside from giving the audience a sense of involvement while watching the show “live”, the film features never-before-seen and very candid interviews with notable American fashion designers such as Betsy Johnson, Tommy Hilfiger, and Donna Karan. The film’s also a factual representation of a critical period of American fashion design for it was during the 1990s that USA joined the European elites in hosting the world’s most significant fashion event. As compared to its other fashion capital counterparts like Paris, London and Milan, the tents in New York City were seen as offering greater accessibility to the public, even if some had to cut through them to get a peek from outside.

A riveting use of shorts from varying time periods at New York Fashion Week, The Tents captures the rapid pace and growth of the fashion industry a decade ago, and ironically replays it at a slow motion pace. Despite the main intention of the film being to explain the mechanics of the multi-billion-dollar industry to its viewers, what most realise is that they are also being reintroduced to that sleek Calvin Klein black dress and Tommy Hilfiger’s preppy aesthetic. Not just an exposition piece, The Tents, will treat the audience to a charming rekindling of the sartorial dazzle of the 1990s.

Rating: 3/5
Runtime: 1 hour 19 mins
Language: English
Censorship rating: PG
Genre: Documentary
Director: James Belzer