The Art of Curating

As an avid film watcher, Viknesh Kobinathan (CS‘14) took part in Perspectives Film Festival, a WKWSCI practicum that kick-started his career as a film curator.

As an avid film watcher, Kobinathan loves the liberating feeling of being transported to another world when he watches a movie. PHOTO: SIOBHAN TAN

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As a six-year-old, watching ‘The Jungle Book’ was Viknesh Kobinathan’s (CS‘14) favourite pastime. The VHS-taped animated movie that was made in 1967 was the spark that started it all for Kobinathan, now a film curator at the Asian Film Archive. 

“The movie was complete with magical singing and dancing. I knew all the lines and songs and the colours were breathtaking. It was everything that was amazing about cinematography,” he said. 

As a child, he would collect all sorts of VHS tapes but because of their bulkiness, he had to make the difficult decision of discarding some of them. He would then rewatch the remaining tapes until they wore out.  

His passion for motion pictures did not stop there. Currently, Kobinathan is a film curator at the Asian Film Archive where he has to strategically pick out titles for upcoming screenings. 

While his job scope usually requires him to watch two to three films a day, Kobinathan makes it a point to squeeze in at least one for his personal enjoyment.

“My favourite genre of film is American film-noir as it captures the breakdown of the American Dream after the war. It is amazing how these films manage to artfully present what was deemed as dark and subversive at that time,” he added. 

“I want to have a film platform that showcases films about the underrepresented in society as well as more works from lesser known regions in Asia such as Southern India or Central Asia.”

Viknesh Kobinathan (CS'14), AFA Film Curator

Alongside two other curators, he has to plan programmes two months in advance.

“Film curation is like a business process because we have to negotiate with the people who own the film’s rights. It becomes a business negotiation as the film becomes a product I have to market and sell. 

“I also have to bear in mind whether the films will appeal to the audience and consider if the chosen films will be what the AFA want to represent,” he added. 

Kobinathan’s enthusiasm for the arts dates a long way back. As an aspiring thespian, the drama club was his home throughout his secondary school and junior college days. 

Even when he entered National Service, he could not bear to part with his passion. With the support of his parents, Kobinathan did theatre independently while enlisted and directed two plays which were open to the public. 

His first piece was an adaptation of “God’s Favourites” by playwright Neil Simon while his second one was a series of quick and snappy short plays by David Ives. 

During his time in the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, he had the opportunity to participate in the Perspectives Film Festival twice. 

A practicum where students are tasked to organise a film programme, PFF is also Singapore’s first and longest-running student-produced film festival. Kobinathan was part of the editorial team in his first run, and then returned for the second year as head of programming.

“I met a lot of experienced people in the film industry who guided me along the way and gave me a headstart into my career path,” he added. 

In the future, Kobinathan hopes to create a space where people can have an “open exploration and discovery of film”. 

“I want to have a film platform that showcases films about the underrepresented in society as well as more works from lesser known regions in Asia such as Southern India or Central Asia. 

“I hope that the film scene in Singapore can be more risky and experimental. While Singapore lacks that demand because people here don’t really watch such films, we are seeing a greater development when it comes to creating spaces for indie films to be screened,” said Kobinathan who cited The Projector, an independent cinema at Golden Mile Tower, as one example.

Currently, Kobinathan is co-curating a film programme called ‘Singular Screens’ that celebrates independent and bold films. However, due to the novel coronavirus situation, it has been postponed until further notice.