Singapore, a land-scarce island, is under perpetual construction; a popular running joke is that the national bird is a crane. One consequence of land scarcity is also scarcity of the past, or at least the evidentiary traces—landforms, buildings, graveyards—that testify of the past.
Given this lack of ‘the material presence of the past’, how do filmmakers portray ‘old Singapore’ in their films? This selection juxtaposes three kinds of films against one other to ask questions about authenticity, technology, time and re-enactment.
Given the rapid rate of urban renewal, filmmaking in Singapore often acquires a certain urgency: the filmmaker as archivist. Yet films as historical sources are complex: rich in detail but also deeply subjective. This programme examines how films can be read as both records as well as inventions of the past.
Guest curated by Alfian Sa’at
Free admission with registration
*Post-screening Q&A on 10 August with:
M. Raihan Halim (Director of Sunat)
Gayle Harrif (Assistant director of Reunion Dinner)
James Page (Production Designer of Nocturne)
K. Rajagopal (Director of The Glare)
Wesley Leon Aroozoo (Director of Pak & Sons Travels)
Moderated by Alfian Sa’at (Guest Curator)
About the films:
My Child My Child (1979, dir. Rajendra Gour)
11 min | English with subtitles | PG
The film begins with a woman reflecting about her role as a person and as a mother. Her love and the sacrifices she has made for her children are evident and she has many happy memories of her time spent with them.
20th Anniversary: Pak & Sons Travels (2007, dir. Wesley Leon Aroozoo)
18 min | English with subtitles | PG
A quirky tale that tells of the estranged relationship between a father, Mr. Pak, and his son, Gregory. The former holds a party to celebrate both the 20th anniversary of the successful tour agency that they anchor, as well as Gregory’s 20th birthday. Things turn sour however, when party plans go awry, and Gregory does not show up until much later. In drunken anguish, Mr. Pak reveals to his son the truth about his Japanese mother and his own part in perpetuating the deception.
Sunat (2009, dir. M. Raihan Halim)
10 min | Malay and English with English subtitles | PG
This comedy tells of the anxieties a young boy faces as he chooses to undergo circumcision to prove the advent of his manhood.
The Glare (1996, dir. K Rajagopal)
16 min | Tamil, Malay, Mandarin, English with English Subtitles | PG
A woman who has to single-handedly raise a young daughter and suffer abuse from a drunk husband, finds solace in watching television and drumming up elaborate fantasies. Her compulsive television viewing habit escalates until the day her husband brutally smashes her dreams of a glamorous life and she descends into madness.
The Reunion Dinner (2011, dir. Anthony Chen)
15 min | Chinese with English subtitles | G
With Chinese New Year Eve as a backdrop, The Reunion Dinner shows how a Singaporean Chinese family grows and evolves over 40 years. Told through the eyes of 10-year-old schoolboy Boon, starting in 1970, it traces the relationship between him and his barber father Teck. The film is a moving portrait of family life in Singapore that captures the often awkward, subdued and unspoken love between father and son.
Nocturne (2017, dir. Liao JieKai)
19 min | Hokkien, Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles | PG
Ever since Jianxiong disappeared a few years ago due to his involvement in underground communist activities, Meifeng had been trying to move on in life without her lover. A visit to his family on Chinese New Year’s Eve brought back familiarity and stirred up unexpected tensions.
Screening courtesy of film commissioner Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre
About the Guest Curator
Alfian Sa’at is the Resident Playwright of Wild Rice. His published works include three collections of poetry: ‘One Fierce Hour’, ‘A History of Amnesia’ and ‘The Invisible Manuscript’; a collection of short stories, ‘Corridor’; a collection of flash fiction, ‘Malay Sketches’; three collections of plays as well as the published play ‘Cooling Off Day’. In 2001, Alfian won the Golden Point Award for Poetry as well as the National Arts Council Young Artist Award for Literature. His plays and short stories have been translated into German, Swedish, Danish and Japanese
About Singapore Shorts ’19
SINGAPORE SHORTS ’19 is an annual showcase celebrating the best and the most promising local short films. A critical platform for excellence and diverse thought in moving images, the selection is overseen by a panel of respected professionals across Singapore’s film industry. Alongside screenings of the selected cinematic works, the programme will also feature post-screening discussions with the filmmakers and dedicated reviews from critics.
The 2019 edition will also include a special section of older titles curated by local playwright Alfian Sa’at from the Asian Film Archive’s collection.
For the full programme line-up, please visit here.