FILM REVIEW: Merged
What happens when your school merges? How does the loss of a building affect community, memory, and identity?
Merged is an interactive documentary on Singapore’s biggest school merger. It takes a closer look at the city-state’s changing social and education landscapes, by focusing on Tampines Junior College (TPJC)’s last days. Join us for the launch and screening of the interactive documentary, an exhibition, and two panel discussions. ‘We no need no education’ explores Singapore’s changing education landscape, while ‘What’s in a Building?’ examines the significance of physical space towards collective memory.
Director: Ng Kai Yuan, Carine Tan Yang Yi, Matthew Chew Chee Han, Cheah Wenqi
Cast: Mary Choo, Vince Ang, Rachel Cruzado, Hamsiyah, Caleb Ong, Sheryl Lim, Khidir Ali
Review by Jean Wong
Beautifully engaging, Merged is an interactive web documentary that meticulously pieces together individual stories to ask the question, what makes up a place? With the impending school merger happening in the film, this question has been inevitably brought to the forefront.
Merged invites you to take a look into how students, alumni and teachers alike grapple with this major change, and even to empathise with them — because the idea of attaching sentiments to a place is a universal one.
As the first ever school merger that includes junior colleges, Merged focuses precisely on one school which will be affected by this change — Tampines Junior College (TPJC). One of the filmmakers, Kai Yuan, is a TPJC alumnus and therefore is a lot more intimately tied to the subject of this documentary.
As an alumnus myself, Merged was all-around a strange and nostalgic walk down memory lane for me. The specific and conscious choice of using 360-degree videos added greatly to the immersive experience. Whether TPJC is a familiar place to you or not, viewers are able to glimpse an idea of what being in TPJC would be like.
The webpage of the map is one of my favourite parts of the documentary. The atmospheric background noises combined with the interactive questions that helped to prompt conversations made it feel homely. It simulates the feeling of being in school with your friends, which is often the happiest memories for us.
Choosing to focus not just on the students and teachers, but the vendors as well, felt like a complete effort in itself. Merged even briefly engaged with students from Meridian Junior College (at the orientation camp), the school that will be merged with TPJC. Every story was touched on and presented with care.
The first batch of students of the new school — Tampines Meridian Junior College — was given disposable cameras to record their orientation camp experience. Though this may be the end of TPJC, it is in many ways a new beginning as well. The thought that warmed me up the most as I was watching the clips was that TPJC will now forever be immortalised in this documentary; even things like the background chatter can be found on the webpage.
Ultimately, what really makes up a place isn’t so much the buildings as it is the people. Though TPJC will no longer be, the school spirit would definitely live on through its students. Merged may be a documentary centred around TPJC, but the underlying idea of change is something that all of us are able to relate to.