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A Look at the Melbourne Singapore Film Festival 2010

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I am a regular blogger, but I’m the worst sort of blogger. I blog about my daily life. I guess that at least, I don’t blog about purchasing a Hello Kitty bling bling handphone cover (though I’m not going to deny about the My Melody bling bling sticker on my DS), however my blog is just not the kind that is meant for public enjoyment. It is mostly composed of personal rants.

So, in thinking about how I should review the inaugural Melbourne Singapore Film Festival (SFFMelbourne), I am seriously doubting I can go about it with a level of professionalism.

But, nevermind all that. I didn’t go to the Festival as a newspaper journalist. Neither was I there to conduct any sort of research for some thesis paper. I’m a slacker of a student with the single aim of finishing my overseas study so that I can get my paper degree.

Obviously, there are some other things I get to do in the process… Such as getting Sinema-sponsored tickets to the festival’s Opening Gala, to enjoy the screening of the film Singapore Dreaming and gorge myself on the yummy buffet before that.

It was a really, really great night. The food was supremely good, the ambience was totally awesome, and I even had goodie bags to take home after that! I really have no grounds for complaints here. The organizing team did a great job with this event. It was a more pleasurable event than I could have fathomed.

There is the fact that I couldn’t have known what to fathom, since this is the first event of its kind in Melbourne, and I was going there as a noob student. I haven’t learnt what to expect of this kind of event, but I am glad that I spoke to a few of the girls from the small but tightly-knit organizing team and found that they haven’t come from some big, shady corporative but are very much doing this under their own steam.

They have personally put in much effort to draw in the participation of a number of organizations such as Sinema and Contact Singapore, and the organizations have also responded strongly to have enabled a total of 7 sessions of made-in-Singapore films to arrive in Melbourne. Out of the 7, there were 5 feature films and 2 short film series. A really good start, I’d say.

Now, I’m thinking to myself, is this festival really only about the films?

The Opening Gala was definitely also about the food–naturally. The catering really sets the standard for the Chinese food I’ve eaten here in Melbourne, among other Singapore-originating events here and perhaps even on a more general scale.

It’s really hard to find authentic Singapore food here in Melbourne, and as I’m a poor and/or lazy student I wouldn’t know if other restaurants in further suburbs serve authentic Singapore food, but I do know that I haven’t been impressed with the options I’ve found in the city.

And anyway, the best thing about Singapore food is both its relatively cheapness and the convenience in getting it right?

The Opening Gala food didn’t all have a Singaporean character, with the barbecue chicken wings, tempura prawns and what not, but imagine my surprise when I saw the wide variety of free-flow Yeo’s packet drinks before me!

And the Chinese noodles and other side dishes like the stir-fried diced potatoes! If there were keropok, I would have been rather delighted. But, there was Kacang Putih, and traditional Malay Kueh! Tell me if I shouldn’t be impressed.

Moving on from the food lest this become a foodie blog; Let’s talk about the people. The ambience of the night was brilliant. It might sound like a slighting comment to say that the people behaved really nicely (like I shouldn’t expect people to be nice), and yet something as simple as that couldn’t escape me for some reason. It’s not to be taken for granted when a crowd is not pushy at a public event.

And this isn’t even about crowd control.No crowd control services had to be employed here, and boy, I realized what there is to love about film festivals. They are quite unlike football matches. Football matches are supposed to be MAD. Which could be great. So I’m not making a personal attack against football matches here, I just do love film festivals the way they are!

The Opening Night felt enjoyable for me, because the crowd of over 200 people mingled wonderfully well. There were no overtly loud proclamations of “EH how you doing!! Long Time No See, Long Time No See!” across the room. That is all interesting, but it’s also very nice that this event did not have a particular loudness to it. This event has a strong, independent flavor, with design students selling accessories they make themselves and homegrown acoustic pop singers adding more color to the event, without all that media glitz and blitz.

It was striking to have observed the distribution of audiences across the five different nights of the Film Festival. The attendance on the first night was the most substantial, what with the food and the screening of Singapore Dreaming.

Attendance on the following nights dwindled considerably. The closing session of the Festival saw a rise in audience numbers again, with the screening of filmmaker Boo Junfeng’s short films.

His feature film Sandcastle is presently running in Singapore’s theaters, so it’s amazingly current to be able to watch his short films in Melbourne since they also got a recent run back home.

For some reason, the Opening Gala night felt more like an official date, with food followed by a film, while the Closing Night felt a bit like I was attending a hall lecture with fellow students. This is not just due to the films screened on the respective nights per se; Perhaps a buffet just officializes everything almost like a wedding reception…

I spoke to a few people in the crowd on the Opening Night, and I got the impression that they weren’t exactly dying to head home to Singapore like how I pretty much was feeling. To raise the topic of patriotism in Singapore is bound to raise some eyebrows as well. A Singaporean lecturer at Melbourne University was sharing with me how she has a humorous friend who has a lot of patriotic feelings for Singapore, and I was like “Serious?” – asked with a level of disbelief and some intrigue.

A number of people at the Opening Night were working adults who have settled down in Melbourne for some years now. Myself and fellow schoolmates on the other hand, still have parents to account to back in Singapore.

Well, I could choose to take up a job here if I wanted, but while I’m still studying till the end of the year, no current student (and this very much includes myself) would ever rave in excitement about the available choices of jobs one has.There is no such optimism. We just want to graduate.

And yet, something to wonder about is, how many of us will head back to Singapore and how many of us will remain overseas? How many of us have long decided to be anywhere else but in Singapore? The demographics of all this will only give me a headache, so I’d just share what I think could be happening right now.

We are going global. Melbourne Singapore Film Festival. This term hints at the same as what I said before. Films are going global, and it’s also because people are going global. I think films have never been as global as they are now.

All thanks to film festivals, films are traveling just as widely as people travel now. Our ancestors used to travel for spices, but now we travel for studies or work or on vacation. And it’s really up to us where we choose to go provided there is no scenario from The Day After Tomorrow, whereby global transport and communications get cut off because a worldwide natural disaster is turning the lands and the seas upside down.

One thing should keep us rooted. That is perhaps the question of where we want to be.

I have no tips to share for patriotism, but I think that Singapore films can help us to figure out how to get there. Just the sights and sounds that we choose to capture in our films may already suggest plenty about what we feel for the landscape.

The times are a bit different from our parents’ and grandparents’ generation now. Back in our grandparents’ generation, having a big, big family was also a part of ‘nation development’ on a more private scale. We have smaller and more scattered families now due to the possibility of overseas travel, and those of us in the younger generation may not have the same ideas of having to support the family anymore.

Clearly, we should definitely still ensure that our family is well taken of, but what I mean to say is, perhaps we may now ‘slack off’ a little more than our parents did. It’s not just about work anymore. The salary is important to provide for the family, but we have smaller families to take care of now, don’t we.

I think we can still tell stories about family, however small the family unit may be. The fact that the story of one family may apply to a lot of other small households in Singapore, just like in the film Singapore Dreaming, can be a way of telling our stories. And in this way, perhaps we have big, big stories to tell now. Maybe not as big as The Day After Tomorrow, but certainly still big in our very own way.

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