Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The brainchild of Thai filmmaker Anocha Suwichakornpong and Singaporean producer Tay Bee Pin, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner was a pan-Asian project with a gender-specific edge: three female directors were each commissioned to deliver a short film loosely related to the three main meals of the day.
Certain rules applied to the entries, too: the protagonists for each segment had to share the same name ('Mei'); the dialogue would involve a character popping the will-you-marry-me question; and they all had to feature a mention of the late Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, an icon in the history of global female emancipation because she was the first woman elected to govern a Muslim country.
Beyond the underlying theme and features, the three stories complement each other just as different meals play different roles in the daily routine. Directed by mainland filmmaker Wang Jing, Breakfast is as rough as the way people feel on waking up to yet another day of confusion and discontent. After a gruelling train ride, Mei arrives in Nanjing to visit her boyfriend, but the couple are going through a bad patch, and Mei's fatigue adds to her anguish.
And then it's off to Bangkok where Lunch is served. Anocha's Mei is a schoolgirl who skips class to eat with her male best friend. Lunch is brimming with brightness and hope - but tarnished also with that pubescent sense of uncertainty, as the two teenagers take stock of their bond and what that might bring to lives yet to be lived.
Dinner is set in Singapore, with Kaz Cai introducing the budding friendship between Rong, an ex-con trying to rehabilitate himself with a job at a bakery, and Madam Mei (played by Beatrice Chien), a pensioner he meets on a roadside bench. It's a convergence of a start and an end: Rong is anxious about his new life and Mei is looking back at a romance that defines her melancholic existence. Cai's film brings the series to a conclusion, but also a possible new beginning as another challenging day beckons. This is engaging fare which rarely opts for easy sentimentalism.
Tomorrow, 8.10pm, as part of the IndPanda International Short Film Festival