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INTERVIEW: 15 Shorts4 min read

19 April 2019 4 min read


INTERVIEW: 15 Shorts4 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

15 Shorts is a series of short films borne from a desire to tell the stories of good samaritans throughout Singapore. The collaboration project between NVPC and Blue3Asia first started from Daniel Yun, a filmmaker from Blue3Asia, when he realised the Singaporean narrative of nation-building was made of mostly big, headline-worthy stories.

“I thought there should also be a lot of untold stories of Singaporean individuals,” Yun shared. “These small stories are no less worthy to be told.”

Indeed, these stories appropriately give credit to the Singaporeans who had helped others in need without expecting any returns. Melissa Kwee, Chief Executive Officer of NVPC, shares, “In our rush to be developed and modern, we must never forget what has made us and kept us strong as a people.” 15 Shorts was the perfect opportunity to represent these everyday stories in order to keep the giving spirit alive.

Perhaps this is why out of the 15 different shorts, Shanti was the one that resonated with Yun the most. The short was inspired by the true story of Kelvin Lee, who had helped take care of his neighbour’s children when his neighbour was hospitalised and unable to do so. “We see the raw reality of helping a stranger — it embodies the very spirit of 15 Shorts,” Yun explained. It reinforces the idea that sometimes carrying out acts of kindness not only influences others, but also ourselves.

When asked why film was his medium of choice, Yun replied, “As a pioneer filmmaker, it is natural that I chose to tell these stories on film. Having helped build this industry in Singapore, I foresee short films will soon find a permanent space.” Online platforms would provide the audience ease of access while social media would provide ease of sharing, allowing 15 Shorts to get the recognition it deserves. Film, then, seemed like the right choice through which these stories would be showcased.

Partnering with other filmmakers under 15 Shorts was a unique and memorable experience for Yun. Despite it being a relatively small project for these filmmakers, Yun recalls watching each of them get excited over the process. “The final film shows all the signs of a passion project despite the diversity of styles, because the stories are about real Singaporeans that resonate with the directors.”

In fact, the director of the most recent 15 Shorts film, K. Rajagopal, was delighted to share his thoughts on his piece. Amongst the various shorts produced under this project, The T(h)ree Lives stands out in its decision to be part social experiment, merging past and present acts of Singaporean kindness into one film.

The T(h)ree Lives details Rosie Wong’s experience as a blind person, who met a stranger that helped her cross the road to work everyday for 5 years. In line with the 15 Shorts spirit, K. Rajagopal shares, “It was the simple, honest, and genuine act of kindness of a total stranger that made me want to tell this story.” Rajagopal was keen to see if this helping spirit still lingers on today and thus made the decision for The T(h)ree Lives to be part social experiment.

Taking inspiration from The Giving Tree, the director says, “I decided to use the tree as a metaphor to tell the story. The three trees represent the people who made an impact on Rosie as well as the different phases of her life.” This made for many gorgeous shots of Singapore’s scenery throughout the film, amidst an equally beautiful story unfolding.

It seems that the stories chosen for 15 Shorts do not just resonate with the filmmakers, but with the rest of the Singapore audience as well. “The reception of the ten stories released so far have exceeded our expectations. Some have even been enthusiastically received by schools and bodies related to the causes of the stories told,” Yun shared. These stories of everyday Singaporeans, which used to fly under the radar, are inspiring precisely because they give hope to commonfolk that they themselves can effect change too.

With various campaigns often being held and even a kindness campaign to boot, there is a perception that Singapore is a nation that only responds to campaigns. Yun, however, hopes to show that Singaporeans have always been kind, gracious and courageous as individuals, with or without campaigns. It is the compassion in us that makes us humans and allows us to appreciate these stories individually, rather than being just part of a national narrative.

As Kwee puts it, 15 Shorts “portrays the universal and transcendent values which have built our Singapore society. It is important to remember the courageous giving spirit has always been part of who we are.” With such a promising start, it’ll be exciting to see what else 15 Shorts has in store for us.

The final 5 films will be launched in late 2019. Until then, the rest of the films can be viewed on 15 Shorts.

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.

Contemplative empath who sees wonder in the curious world. Has a habit of hiding behind books and occasionally dabbles in games, Netflix and YouTube. Is permanently attached to bubble tea.
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