P.S.: The True Lives Of The People Who Work Behind The Scenes
Sometimes it is easy, in the commotion of reality, to forget about the little people around you. These people might not be as visible to you as your friends or your family, or even as present in your everyday routine as your classmates or your colleagues; in fact, you might not even notice their existence in the backdrop. Yet they remain indispensable and relevant to our lives.
In the backgrounds of our regular routines are people who work tirelessly to maintain the functioning of our society. They might be literal strangers to us, but their efforts to create better lives for everyone in the community have indeed enacted change — even if they’re hidden behind the scenes.
P.S., a series consisting of four short films, aims to bring these stories to light. Released in conjunction with Singapore’s Public Service Week, P.S. features the real-life stories of local public officers, and how they have gone the extra mile to help and support the people in our community.
These stories are told through the unique, artistic lenses of four local filmmakers. From their creative storytelling, we are led to explore the intricacies of these public officers’ minds, and by following their journey, are better able to understand the way they work, and how they help to upkeep the local community.
P.S. Finding L
Directed by Sufyan Sam’an
Finding L revolves around a young girl, L, from the Singapore Girls’ Home, whose goal is simply to make her family proud. However, she finds herself lost and confused amidst bullying and social ostracisation, and after she runs away, her Youth Guidance Officer Natashah attempts to bring her back home.
This is a simple story about love and support, and it is shot beautifully. L is often framed in a way that separates her from the rest of her surroundings, either through wide lonely shots of her small stature against a larger desolate backdrop, or through physical borders that cut her off from everyone else. It is only when Natashah actively steps into L’s isolated frame that L realises that she is no longer alone, and finds support in Natashah before ultimately learning to believe in herself again.
Despite its short runtime, the film still manages to enrich its story further by expanding into Natashah’s home life. This humanises her as an actual person who has a life outside of work, rather than just a convenient mentor dedicated to her work of guiding juveniles through their youth, and ultimately makes the film more holistic and believable.
Finding L is a simple story told well, which makes it a great watch.
P.S. Nothing Gold Can Stay
Directed by Sabrina Poon
When a young Singaporean, Matthew, returns from London following a loss in his family, he is guided along by Xiang, an officer in the National Environment Agency (NEA).
Initially, I found myself confused as the film takes us through a forest while Matthew looks around, curious and lost. It is only at the parting of the clouds and the reveal of a clearing that things began to click for me, and I began to appreciate the metaphors that director Sabrina Poon had injected into the film.
As a young Singaporean, it is difficult to grapple with the aftermath of death and its logistics. The forest, void of visible pathways, seems to reflect the disorientation and confusion that Matthew has after losing a loved one. He is also evidently at a loss on what to do, and this is aptly showcased through him aimlessly following after Xiang through the forest.
All in all, Nothing Gold Can Stay is a poetic rendition of a young Singaporean’s efforts bring his parents back together, even after death.
P.S. In One’s Shoes
Directed by Poh Yan Zhao
Hawker centre cleaners — we’ve seen them, we’ve watched them work, we’ve spoken to them, but do we actually understand their jobs and working conditions?
In One’s Shoes follows Mei Ling, a research officer from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). In a bid to create better policies for workers, she decides to put herself in the shoes of hawker centre cleaners by working as a cleaner herself to better understand and empathise with their circumstances.
This is perhaps the most relatable of all the short films, as it is a common sight in Singapore to see hawker centre cleaners bustling about as they clear dirty tables. Through Mei Ling’s efforts, we are able to look into a culture that we otherwise might not have thought twice about, and the camaraderie between the cleaners is a heartwarming sight.
Geraldine Goh, who plays Mei Ling, also manages to portray her in a way that seems natural and realistic, and it is easy to see, through her portrayal, the sincerity that Mei Ling has in learning the ropes in order to empathise with her fellow workers.
While the film also frequently cuts back to Mei Ling as a little girl training herself to run, I found myself wishing to see more of present Mei Ling’s efforts at the hawker centre instead, and to learn more about the circumstances that these cleaners work in.
Overall, though, In One’s Shoes is a simple, insightful film to watch.
P.S. Farrer Park
Directed by Ray Pang
Unlike the previous films, Farrer Park tackles a larger topic — literally.
When an urban planner, played by Chloe Lim, is tasked to redevelop Farrer Park, she has to reconcile her plans with the park’s rich sports history. It is not an easy task, but through her active, extensive imaginations, she manages to immerse herself in the community’s way of living so as to get a better sense of how to preserve its heritage.
In this film, the unnamed urban planner not only swims, but takes part in a soccer match and fights in a boxing arena on the very grounds of Farrer Park. This is all done through an illusory dreamscape setting, and Ray Pang’s sensibility of showcasing her dilemma and contemplation through this method allows us to fully explore not only the intricacies of her mind, but also experience the activities that the Farrer Park community regularly engages in. And it is only through this engagement that we, as outsiders to their daily habits, are better able to understand their fervent desire to protect their heritage.
Mutual understanding is vital in any large-scale project that would affect the community, and Farrer Park brings this across in an intriguing and enlightening way.
The four films in this series are refreshing and enlightening. Through them, we are able to glimpse into the lives of the people behind the scenes — people who, through hard work and effort, aim to better the lives of the people living in their community.
You can watch all the films on the P.S. Short Films official website here.