Portsdown Road, as fragile as a bubble

Ashish Ravinran is an aspiring filmmaker, who was born and brought up mostly in Singapore. He is currently a second year history undergraduate at Oxford University. After completing his degree he plans to go to film school to do a Masters in Filmmaking.

Here he writes about his entry into the WHERE THE HEART IS competition, which takes as its subject the old black and white bungalows of Portsdown Road, and his family’s memories.

My first home, Portsdown Road, is the setting for some of my strongest but most elusive memories. Using my parents’ often contradictory accounts as well as old photographs, I attempted to piece together some of these moments from my childhood.

By placing these photographs alongside contemporary views of the same locations, I wanted to force a viewer to carry out the creative process of remembering – for instance, to link our hobby of collecting saga seeds in Portsdown Road with the tin of these seeds that we still keep to this day. This makes it easy to imagine an idyllic version of the ‘good old days’. To be sure, the score, composed by Khidir Osman, is intended to tempt a viewer in this direction as well.

The value of these memories lies not so much in their factual accuracy, but rather the way they feel.

However, it is this very nostalgia, of which I am also sceptical. The fact that my parents are unable to agree on exact details and the vagueness with which I try to remember, possibly challenge the ‘truth’ of these memories. Yet, in this short I tried to show that the value of these memories lies not so much in their factual accuracy, but rather the way they feel – the sound of a breaking twig, the way a touch-me-not closes, the feel of bark, or the way a bubble looks as it shimmers in the air.

I shot this using a Panasonic Lumix GH-1, which takes great full HD video. Like most of the short, the opening shots were filmed just outside my old house in Portsdown Road. The people who are seen blowing bubbles and taking pictures are my mother and father respectively, which I thought was a fun way to try and re-enact the past while shooting.

Similarly, the film camera that my father holds is the same Nikon that was used to take all the old photographs seen in the short. The last shot was particularly hard to do as I had to repeatedly blow bubbles for almost an hour while waiting for one to pass directly in front our old apartment.

Although in many ways I think it says more about my parents than it does about me, Portsdown Road is definitely the most personal short film I have made. Since then I have shot a couple of advertisements in university and written and directed a 5-minute short film about deception.

Portsdown Road is one of 19 films from the competition playing in a series of openair screenings at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2011.

If you are resident in Australia, find out how you could win a copy of the TIONG BAHRU DVD, featuring the Top 19 WHERE THE HEART IS films, here. If you are in Singapore, contact your local branch of the NLB to ask about borrowing the DVD from the end of May.

Check out more films from the competition at the WHERE THE HEART IS vimeo channel, here.

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