Seletar Airbase — Singapore’s Secret Garden
Produced, written and directed by Li Xiuqi
Running time: 10 minutes
Released in 2007
In a nutshell
A glimpse of the tightly-knit community living at Seletar Airbase, before the government takes back the land.
Seletar Airbase — Singaporeâ€™s Secret Garden is unabashedly a film with an agenda. The Singapore government announced in 2006 that it would turn the area into an aerospace hub by 2015, which could not be a fate more alien for a neighbourhood as warm and welcoming as this film makes Seletar Airbase out to be.
In this freshman documentary effort by Li Xiuqi, thereâ€™s everything to paint the place as a lush suburban refuge, from sweeping shots of abundant greenery — now this is what a real Garden City ought to look like — to heartfelt soundbites from residents of the area.
If anything, perhaps Seletar Airbase is a tad too sentimental. Over and over again, we see children romping all over luxuriant lawns, catching fish in a small creek or snacking on rambutans plucked fresh off a tree. Adult residents talk about how everyone knows their neighbours and they can leave their doors open all day. Modern-day kampong life doesnâ€™t get more idyllic than this, does it?
Perhaps yielding to sentimentality is inevitable when dealing with a place thatâ€™s threatened by so relentless a sword of Damocles. The filmâ€™s leisurely pace is not one beat out of step with the laidback lifestyle it depicts. But that also lacks the urgency that one expects for a film thatâ€™s crusading for the conservation of this neighbourhood. At some point in the latter half of the film, the Airbase lifestyle already feels like a relic of old Singapore — something we can glimpse through this documentary but will never experience for ourselves.
The pockets of life shown in Seletar Airbase arenâ€™t your typical view of Singapore. But beyond nostalgia and pastoral yearning, letâ€™s hope it can inspire people to appreciate that there ought to be room enough on our little island for these different ways of life to coexist.
Seletar Airbase — Singapore’s Secret Garden will be screened at the 2nd Singapore Indie Doc Fest on Tuesday, March 6 at 7:30 pm at the Substation Theatre, and at the next Sinema screening on Tuesday, March 13 at 7:30 pm at TimbrÃ©.
- Seletar Airbase project
- Capturing a slice of Seletar life — behind the scenes of the film Seletar Airbase with Li Xiuqi (Sinema.sg)