FILM REVIEW: Shelter
DIRECTOR: Sean Ng
SYNOPSIS: As Singapore strived in the 90s, a family gets driven out of their home for unpaid debts and are forced to live in a tent on the beach. All seems peaceful until a stranger with an agenda enters their lives.
Review by Hubert Lawrence Yeo
Homelessness is often dismissed as a social issue which is non-existent in Singapore, but those who think this way could not be more wrong. According to a news report published in October of last year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) tended to an average of 300 cases of homelessness. It is a very real and prevalent problem in what we perceive to be a first-world, metropolitan country – many of us are guilty of assuming or pretending it does not exist.
The film Shelter by Sean Ng attempts to highlight homelessness as an issue which remains real and pertinent in modern-day Singapore through an actual example of an individual who grew up homeless, and subsequently dedicated most of his life to sheltering those without a roof above their heads. That man is Rashid Bakar, who in 1972 lived on East Coast beach for 2 years eating scraps and sleeping on boats – he was only 12 then.
We follow the story of Aaron (Alfred Sng), a 17-year-old Chinese boy who is left debt-ridden and homeless together with his younger sister (Emeline Yang) and mother (Low Shu Yi). They are locked out of their own flat and chased from sleeping at stairwells by police officers. Eventually they settle with living in a tent at East Coast Park, where they are approached by a stranger who introduces himself as Rashid (Anees Bak’r Hameed), who tries to give them a helping hand.
Through a tightly focused and heartwarming script, laudable acting and a brilliant artistic eye behind the camera, Sean Ng investigates the psychosocial and emotional outlook of homeless people in Singapore and reminds us that this social issue is often a symptom of larger matters, such as financial or marital difficulties. This short film highlights that despite Singapore’s current level of development and advancement, there are still the less fortunate of society who require our attention and care. If one like Rashid Bakar – who lived most of his life fending for himself – can share what little he has, why can’t we who have so much?
About 15 Shorts
15 Shorts is a collaboration between the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) and Blue3Asia. Fifteen film directors provide an alternative perspective to the nation-building narratives of the era; their films tell true stories of Singaporeans who performed powerful acts of selflessness between the 1970s and 1990s. These are slice-of-life stories that reveal how this human, giving side has always been a part of us.
In the spirit of giving, each director will dedicate his or her film to a charity in Singapore. Working with NVPC, the directors have curated a list of charities that cover a spectrum of needs, including support for the elderly, people with autism, and migrant workers.
About The Director’s Chosen Organisation
The director of Shelter, Sean Ng, has chosen to dedicate his film to New Hope Community Services.
In 2003, New Hope Community Services was founded to provide a temporary shelter to homeless men and families in Singapore, and reach out to those in need regardless of their race or religion. In 2007, New Hope launched the Shelter for Displaced Families. The organisation wishes to empower homeless Singaporeans to alleviate and improve their situation. Today, New Hope has helped more than 900 displaced families and 1000 displaced individuals find their feet again. It offers mentoring, life skills training and support group services.