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Why I don’t watch Singapore films

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I have a confession to make: the last time I watched a Singapore film, it was somewhere in rural Yunnan, China, and I only saw it because the film was being shown as part of the cultural exchange programme I was participating in. I don’t shell out money to watch Singapore films in the cinema and they are the last thing I would choose to watch on TV. Now I’m not a film snob. I don’t worship foreign art-house films and turn my nose down at home-grown productions. So why am I unenthusiastic about Singapore films?

Actually, the question is: do I really want to watch a movie about how HDB-dwellers are constantly worrying about their livelihood and buying Toto hoping to strike it rich, while in the meantime playing soccer with their Malay/Indian/Chinese neighbours (just to emphasise that Singapore is racially harmonious), dealing with their wayward kids who are not doing well in school and expressing their frustrations with the domestic help who are starting to see ghosts?

Hmm, not really. It just cuts too close to home — so close that I don’t see the point in watching a Singapore film (except for a rare few) because I could probably get more drama in real life.

Sometimes, I eavesdrop on ah peks at the void deck who talk about their weekend exploits in Batam. The chicken-seller in the market is happy to tell all about her daughter’s problems in school if you just ask her. The kopitiam uncles are always lambasting government policies over a couple of Tiger beers. And whether it’s colleagues, friends or family, there’s always someone with a tale of woe with their domestic help.

The point is: we are already living this life. Harping on it over and over again in the movies just seems pointless.

I’m not a movie critic but I do like watching movies. I like art-house movies or what some of my friends call “arty-farty boring ones”. They roll their eyes when I whine about having to watch MI:3. Similarly, I’ve had responses like “Hah, simi lai” when I suggested watching Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Cafe Lumiere.

Not all the art-house movies I’e watched are outstanding. But the ones that I enjoyed and remembered were heartfelt, simple in their approach and had a sense of humor. For example, I distinctly remember the Iranian segment of the film 11’09”01: A teacher was trying to tell her students, who were Afghan refugees, about the bombing of the Twin Towers, but they couldn’t not understand what a skyscraper was. So they were led out to a chimney (the tallest structure around) and told to observe a minute of silence.

Simple, heartwarming and effective. I’m not saying Singapore films should be like that, but I think our films are evolving. Let’s see what the next wave brings us.

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1 Comment

  1. 19 November 2006 at 1:26 pm

    I share some of your sentiments – I think most Singaporeans do too to some extent. We have to give ourselves a chance sometimes; and in IR fashion it is a big gamble. Actually, we are naturally story tellers, Singaporeans, our coffee shop uncles, our taxi drivers, our favourite mama shop fellow… It is just that our context always fall short of real resolution, and being a typical Singaporean, we always have complains and when it comes to the crunch, we leave it to a higher authority to maybe resolve it. Then we complain some more about their actions. Vicious cycle.

    I will still take my chances; maybe because I am a high roller; maybe because I love what I do and want to keep doing it; maybe I just have time to kill; maybe I am just a romantic at heart.

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