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What Were You Doing At The Age Of 15? 

Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from 15

First of all, let me inform you that this Singaporean semi-documentary was initially banned, then released with an R rating in Singapore, meaning that those under 21 were prohibited from seeing it. This comes off rather ironic as the film deals with Singaporean youths, all at the age of 15, who are part of the gangster culture.

Whilst most Singaporeans live in nice flats among the many tall condominiums, are highly-educated with bright prospects, these youths spend their time in drugs, porn, alcohol, bullying and harassment, finding the best building to jump off anything that seems remotely self-gratifying. The thing is, they don't know how else to live their lives.

The director, Royston Tan, actually went to the streets to look for real gangster youths to act as the characters in his film. Most of the time he just leaves the camera running while the youths be themselves. There's a sequence of a guy mutilating his own hands with a knife (no special effects here, it was done for real); another attempting to smuggle Ecstasy pills out of Malaysia by swallowing a whole condom.

The style of the film is disjointed: sometimes resembling a weird music video when the characters break into rap, sometimes dreamlike (as in when you're drugged), sometimes humorously sadistic. Characters speak in Hokkien (the most common Chinese dialect used in Singapore) and sometimes in Singlish (broken English, Singaporean style). Half the time they are swearing ('ghanina', 'siao', 'cibai'), though the only way you know is through the subtitles.

This film will pluck you out of your comfortable life and immerse you into a world with a warped sense of morality and justice. It doesn't try to defend or explain what the youths do (unlike Cidade De Deus); it just represents it. You may not like what you see, or feel that you can understand these people and the point is, you shouldn't.

Note: This film will only be officially released in the UK during February, so this is technically a preview screening by the Student Cinema.

Sebastian Ng

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Spring Term (35mm)