Given Singapore’s strict censorship and social controls, it’s no wonder its artist-provocateurs frequently focus on rebels and misfits. Low-budget indie oddity “Here,” the feature debut of painter/performance artist/videomaker Ho Tzu Nyen, purports to document a mental hospital offering video therapy for the criminally insane. More interesting conceptually than in execution, the experimental pic lacks an emotional hook to sustain audience interest. Low-rent look and offbeat rhythms also limit its appeal outside fests and specialty venues.
When silent protag He Zhiyuan (John Low) suddenly snaps and strangles his wife, he’s bundled off to Island Hospital where the medical staff uses video re-enactments for patients to revisit the past and develop alternative methods of dealing with their aggression. Subjects even get to do their own editing. Marbled with low-key (and sometimes sophomoric) humor, the pic’s spare visuals contrast sterile white interiors with the lush green of nature. Most striking are the B&W “home movies” from the hospital’s early days, with patients in bizarre blindfolds. Uneven perfs by nonpro thesps (who rep a diversity of Singapore’s population) also inhibit audience engagement. The self-conscious tech package serves up plenty of filmmaking in-jokes.