Silver Arts 2019: A Celebration of the Old and the Young10 min readReading Time: 7 minutes
Silver Arts 2019, organised by the National Arts Council (NAC), is returning for its eighth edition this September! From music performances and exhibitions to exclusive film screenings and workshops, the programme line-up boasts activities that celebrate seniors and creative ageing.
This year, five short films will be screened as part of Singapore Silver Shorts, which include two commissioned films directed by K. Rajagopal and Chai Yee Wei titled A Dream I Did Not Dream and Family Affairs respectively. Memories, family, dreams, and identity are some of the themes that people, both young and old, can relate to, and these films attempt to encourage inter-generational bonding and appreciation of the seniors through the threads that tie us all together.
Here are the short films:
A Dream I Did Not Dream
Dir. K. Rajagopal
From his conversations with accomplished dancer and art administrator Dr. Uma Rajan, Rajagopal’s A Dream I Did Not Dream aims to portray the rejuvenating power of time, through the use of experimental, surrealistic elements.
Rajagopal’s attempt at celebrating the main character’s past memories translates into performative poetry in this short film, where we follow the main character as she explores her past while she journeys through her house. As she reminisces, old memories and broken connections are portrayed through snapshots of a flickering lightbulb, a decrepit grandfather clock, and scratched out photographs.
The snippets of her history are a little scattered and random, and it is evocative of old age; any little thing or passing thought can awaken an old memory, and sometimes these memories seem more solid than reality itself. As her present self conjures up old memories, her younger self manifests in front of her and consoles her for the pain and ache that they’ve both experienced, though now lingering in different ways after weathering the age of time.
The strings background, almost reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Psycho, further brings across the tension in reconciling old, cherished memories with the reality of the present. It is sharp and shrill, almost painful as she considers belongings streaked in dirt after years of disuse and abandonment, and we can acutely sense her yearning for times bygone.
An intimate piece into the personal recollections that a person holds dear, A Dream I Did Not Dream aptly captures the persistence of the past in clinging to a person’s subconsciousness, and how in time to come, it might eventually become their source of strength.
Family Affairs 年糕
Dir. Chai Yee Wei
In collaboration with Dr. Liang Wern Fook, Family Affairs chronicles a family’s day during the Chinese New Year celebrations.
The film’s storyline is a classic vignette of a Chinese family dinner over the New Year: amidst cooking nian gaos and having dinner, there are the usual uncomfortable conversations and topics that parents inexplicably bring up regardless of their child’s discomfort, which leads to an inexplicably awkward television viewing after.
The colouring of the film immediately stands out. It is tinted in purple, and the reds — cool-toned and almost sickly-looking — are striking against its background. It is wildly disparate from our idea of a Chinese New Year celebration, which is usually full of vivid colours and stark, bright reds that channel the Chinese’ love for luck and prosperity. This pallid colour palette is an instant indicator that this is not the usual loud, joyous occasion that the festival celebrates, but rather something more sombre and melancholic.
Just like secrets buried deep, nothing is explained explicitly, though the snapshots of the past are enough for us to string together a cohesive narrative on what had happened. The lighting cast over the characters when they are deep in thought, isolating and almost surrealistic, brings out the underlying tension beneath this seemingly innocuous family dinner.
Uncanny yet familiar, Family Affairs is a glimpse into the affairs that take place behind closed doors, tucked neatly out of sight.
The Reunion Dinner 回家过年
Dir. Anthony Chen
Anthony Chen’s short film tracks a family’s life across three Chinese New Years, through the nostalgic 60s and the 80s, to Singapore in the modern day.
The passing of time is evident throughout, through intricate production design, make-up and costume, and a thoughtful script. In the 60s, there is the usual iconic checkered outfit, curlers in hair, Hokkien conversations — and most strikingly, actual fireworks as they go off on the streets. All these get a face change in the 80s, when the gradually modernising Singapore results in less Hokkien and more Chinese being spoken in conversations, pagers as tools of communication, and sticks of sparklers rather than firecrackers.
Customs change as time passes, but there are still some threads that remain the same: hair-cutting is a must before Chinese New Year, red packets are given and received, and the family sits down to enjoy a lavish dinner at the table together. While this film might seem to pay homage to a sentimental past that we yearn for in our rapidly-modernising society, it actually flows more like a love letter to our parents, who have loved and raised us since young.
Roles swap as we get more mature and our parents get older. Since our fathers used to give us the chicken leg at dinner and pack a hefty red packet for us, we now reciprocate their affections by taking care of them instead of the other way round. This is the true custom that the film portrays that gets passed on to the next generation — filial piety and devotion to our caretakers.
Warm-hearted and sentimental, The Reunion Dinner captures the sincere, heartfelt moments of a family across a series of Chinese New Years over the ages.
Dir. Wee Li Lin
Interwoven follows Noor, a middle-aged woman who owns a textile shop in Arab Street. She painstakingly designs her own textile to make into a garment for her daughter’s birthday, but Nadia rejects the garment, and Noor begins to doubt her own skills and creativity. Meanwhile, Nadia is more fixated on her short film, which revolves around a person learning to gain confidence in herself and her work.
It is easy, as children, to be blind to our parents’ aspirations or dreams. We are less sensitive to their feelings and we’re used to them taking care of us. On the other hand, parents frequently make sacrifices to support their child’s dreams. What this film does is to turn the tables around to detail the journey of a mother’s creative aspirations instead of her daughter’s, to show that creativity lives in all of us, and that dreams can still come true regardless of age.
It is heartwarming to see Noor get validation from people who notice her work and appreciate it, especially when they are artists who understand her vision and enjoy the art that she has produced. The parallels drawn between Noor’s journey to self-discovery and the plot of Nadia’s short film complement each other to provide a strong, clear message.
Artists can be found anywhere, in anyone, be it a person you see on the streets or a middle-aged woman who owns a textile shop. Creativity is not found only in famous people or celebrities, but can be found in anyone regardless of age — though in our pragmatic society, we often overlook these budding artists. Motivational and inspiring, Interwoven urges us to chase after our dreams.
Singapore Panda 新新熊猫
Dir. Sun Koh
In Singapore Panda, Ah Shun and Ah Hua have to create a radio drama about a panda who has just arrived in Singapore, following the buy-out of their company by a Chinese media conglomerate.
This short is filmed almost like an old drama, with realistic colouring and static shots — and this parallels Ah Shun and Ah Hua’s attempt at creating a radio drama, with “live” sound effects and reel-to-reel recording. Ah Shun and Ah Hua’s interactions are also comfortable and easy to watch as they engage with each other as realistically as real friends would, and all of these elements make it easy to imagine that we’re watching something take place in real life, rather than something that is scripted.
While seemingly straightforward, the radio drama that Ah Shun and Ah Hua narrates regarding an immigrant panda’s journey in finding a place for itself in a foreign land also relates to issues of immigrants and their sense of identity in Singapore. The film’s title is linked to actual pandas Jia Jia and Kai Kai’s arrival in Singapore, and they — much like all other immigrants in Singapore — find it difficult to adapt to their new environment. This tension that exists in reconciling their identity persists even after they have learnt to make themselves at home; and they have to learn to carve out a space for their new identity on their own, in order to find their place in their new home.
Singapore Panda draws parallels to real life, and it works as an apt commentary on the circumstances of immigrants in Singapore, both in the past and in our present day. Thoughtful and sincere, it allows us to understand the difficulties that immigrants face in having to constantly adapt in order to fit into their new environment.
About Silver Arts 2019
Silver Arts is a month-long festival showcasing the meaningful possibilities seniors have in and through the arts in everyday lives. It highlights the significance of arts engagement as people age, and opens conversations on creative ageing – how the arts foster creativity and social engagement towards enhancing the well-being of seniors and the people around them, through imagination and shared experiences. The festival also demonstrates the role of the arts in forging a sense of identity, self-worth and belonging as individuals have access to choices, knowledge and connection to community across generations, cultural backgrounds, and abilities. The festival offers opportunities for seniors to share their stories that shape collective memories and forge stronger inter-generational understanding.
Into its eighth edition, this year’s festival will take place over four weeks from 5 to 29 September islandwide. With an extensive line-up of arts programmes and activities in different languages and dialects, there will be something for everyone.
Download this year’s festival programme here: Silver Arts 2019 Programme Booklet. The full list of programmes can be found here.
Tickets are on sale now. Please click here to purchase Silver Arts Highlight show tickets, and here to purchase Silver Films tickets.
Visit their official website for more information.