INTER-MEZZO is an experimental triptych of independent yet inter-related shorts that treats the voice as a metaphor for political voice. Stephen Chen traces his journey as a male mezzo, faced with prejudice and marginalization back in Singapore, and later in North America. The schooling and suppression of his voice becomes interwoven with his experiences of colonialism and exile.
DOH! OH DEAR, A FEMALE TEAR! – the first in the INTER-MEZZO triptych plays with the biography documentary form, dealing with issues of voice / gender / representation as Stephen traces his westernization, the discovery and silencing of his voice, and people’s reactions in Singapore and North America. Reflecting on the “unsettling” quality of his voice, Stephen decided to exploit the perceptual disconnect to expose boundaries and raise debates when he moved to North America; but “All they wanted me to do was play the King of the fairies” he laments.
WHAT THE FACH? – the second in the triptych exploits the experts / “talking heads” documentary genre, and uses the classification of the Western voice into categories (or fachs) to parallel other formalized or “natural” boundaries such as streaming in schools in Singapore, and academia in North America. It illustrates how such categories are exclusionary and defined by systems of power, and how these boundaries suspend freedom and critical reflection. “I was … reduced to an object of aesthetic appreciation.” Stephen comments.
DEEP THROAT, HIGH PALATE – the third in the INTER-MEZZO triptych utilizes “experimental” documentary techniques to reflect on critical artistic praxis in an age of nationalism and commodification, and whether it is possible to move from difference for the sake of, to a genuine and broader difference. Stephen traces the rediscovery of his voice through obstacles and biases of colonialism and repression, to ultimately transform and transcend the degraded material and past.
INTER-MEZZO is as much a documentary of performance as it is a performance of documentary; with its experimental mix of documentary, performance, performance art, biography, and humor to bracket the “objectivity” of verite aesthetics and the fetishizing of subjects. As a commentary on the superficial and narcissistic tendencies in documentary festivals, it turns the subject onto the director himself. Deliberately and revelling in its low-budget, it posits itself against the increasing clamour of superficial style and production values vs. content and commentary. Ultimately, INTER-MEZZO is about questioning norms and boundaries others accept as “natural”, and finding one’s voice amidst suppression and exclusion.
RUNNING TIME: 48:31 | COMPLETED: 02/13 | DIRECTOR: STEPHEN CHEN | DISTRIBUTOR: