Singaporean director, Singaporean film, but first Q&A session with Singaporean audiences
Glen Goei, director of award winning film The Blue Mansion, has for one of the first time the chance to speak to a Singaporean audience about his film, after it was screened at Sinema Old School last Wednesday 25th May and Saturday 28th May.
“This kind of reaction.. Fantastic. You are a very talented audience, thinking audience. I’ve not had a lot of these questions asked before and it’s wonderful, because I haven’t really had a Q&A with Singaporean audiences. You are my most intelligent audience, thank you very much.” Glen replied to a question about the kind of reaction he wanted to get from his film.
The film has gone around the world and screened in many international film festivals such as the Pusan International Film Festival, Berlin Asian Hot Shots Film Festival and Shanghai International Film Festival.
But maybe, the film was created for mostly Singaporean audiences. The questions asked were different from audiences at the film festivals, as the issues in the film were more noticeable to Singaporean audiences, and many of the film’s meanings meant much more to the audience here.
It has even been touted as an important film and a MUST see for every Singaporean by film critic Philip Cheah, who is also the founder of the Singapore International Film Festival. The film has been daring enough to challenge the Singaporean culture and systems, in a creative and even comedic fashion.
Based on the type of questions asked, one could tell that everyone who came for the screenings on Wednesday and Saturday at Sinema were not only entertained, but thoroughly involved in the storyline, the meanings and the issues the film raises.
Some of the questions asked were:
Where did you get the inspiration from to make this film?
“Taxi drivers in Singapore! Don’t you talk to them? They have great stories. They’re the heartbeat of Singapore, you wanna know more about Singapore, you talk to taxi drivers. I love talking to them.
Other than that, obviously every artist writes about himself. So a lot of characters in this film are based on my own family, and my grandfather with his traditional customs. Where father knows best, or government knows best.
And about ten years ago I attended a granduncle’s funeral, and I don’t know if you have experienced it before, but it can descend into a melodramatic soap opera. So I decided to use a wake as a backdrop for my film. I basically get inspiration from all over. ”
Which scene in the movie did you enjoy doing the most?
“I suppose one of my favourite scenes was the scene of the first funeral, when you had the Christian pastor, the buddhist monk and the taoist monk. It was a very big set that day, we had a lot of extras and the entire cast was there. Everyone was having a good time because no one actually knew what was happening until I actually rehearsed and shot it.
I enjoyed it because to me it is reflective of Singapore. Really, I’ve heard so many stories from friends when a loved one dies, whether they have been converted or not. Ah it’s just so Asian!”
I loved your film and right from the beginning I had felt that many themes in your film reminded me of Singapore, and I noticed how you are trying to bring them across. So which issue is the one that you feel most strongly for?
“Thank you for that question.. Because it made me think again about why I wrote that suicide scene in. Well up to a year ago, if you had HIV in Singapore and you tried to go to a doctor to get medication, it is not subsidized. It is subsidized in Cambodia, one of the poorest countries, but not in Singapore.
And medication can go up to about $2000 a month, so many people in the lower or middle class become poorer. There are many people who are just forgotten and they cannot afford the medication. So that is one of the reasons why I included that scene, I felt that there are so many people in Singapore who want or need help, but they can’t get any.
So now that has changed, but I’m still not sure whether it is the full amount subsidized. This was one of the issues I felt most strongly for.”
The Blue Mansion had an estimated budget of $2 million, which Glen raised by selling his farm in London. Glen invested time, money and effort into the film not for profit purposes, but more importantly, to motivate the audience to discuss about the issues he raised in his film.
“In Singapore we get certain chances to talk to each other about these issues. And so it’s wonderful I’m standing here and you’re standing here and we can talk about these issues which the film has made me bring up, not necessarily about film but about the larger issues. We have so little opportunities to have this kind of dialogue.
You know, the film has not made any money but hey, the film has been studied at polytechnics and universities and people will talk. And that’s what’s most important: that people will talk with each other.
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