Interview: Joshuah Lim, Film Student and Director of ‘And They Roamed’8 min readReading Time: 6 minutes
For student filmmaker Joshuah Lim, cancer was not the end but the beginning. “I really discovered that I love filmmaking while going through chemotherapy,” Joshuah candidly shared, “That was when I really found I had this desire to exist after death.”
Receiving the news during his army days in 2016, the life-changing moment has driven him to go all-out with his passion, channelling the fears and doubts of his recovery journey into his films. He has since brought to life short films including Chiak, which won the GV25 Film Shorts competition in 2017. Mainly inspired by auteurs Andrei Tarkovsky and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Joshuah is particularly interested in how spirituality is portrayed on the screen.
Joshuah’s latest, And They Roamed, was nominated at this year’s National Youth Film Awards (NYFA) and has been selected as part of the Singapore Panorama programme at this year’s Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF). Joshuah is also part of this year’s Youth Jury and Critics Programme at the festival.
Currently in his final year of studies at LASALLE College of The Arts, And They Roamed was made for a school project in Joshuah’s second year. Animated and frank, Joshuah shared with Sinema.SG that he felt his film was the worst out of his batch, and that he still isn’t sure how his film ended up at the SGIFF: “I was super surprised when the film got selected. I thought our producer was pranking us!”
Hauntingly intimate, And They Roamed details a chance encounter between two schoolgirls and the ghost of a former student in an abandoned school. The short film’s story, written by Kimberly Lium, deals with heavy themes such as school bullying and suicide.
Joshuah explained: “We wanted to make the film about reliving childhood, making it about people finding what they have lost in an abandoned school, and to explore how forgotten places have forgotten memories where we might experience snippets of our lives that we might never get to.”
What is perhaps most striking about the And They Roamed is its gorgeous visuals – much to the playful annoyance of Joshuah (“Everyone praised the art ah but no one praised the acting”). He shared that he was mostly hands-off with the film’s art direction, only setting the tone and entrusting the rest to production designer Dionne Goh. It was a difficult decision for Joshuah, having to trust and work with “not seeing and not knowing”, although it was a call that would pay off in spades.
He said: “I think that was what made the film’s art really good. I could tell that Dionne actually felt something in the space. She thought of the space herself, understood the mood and, out of her own creative energy, developed all the sets, props and costumes. I felt that like that space gave her the opportunity to [explore crazy ideas].”
Looking back, Joshuah felt that he needed criticism and resistance against his constant ideations, and how he could have spent more time working together with the actors in the creative process to better immerse them in the film.
Joshuah brings his passion for filmmaking to this year’s Youth Jury and Critics Programme at SGIFF. The Programme looks to nurture opportunities and mentorships in film criticism, with the participants’ works published in SGIFF’s Film Academy journal, Stories. The jury will also be awarding the Youth Jury Prize to one of the films competing in the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition.
Having to watch a vast array of films has led Joshuah to better understand his perspectives with films, while mentorship programmes, as well as feedback from his jury peers, have sharpened his writing skills. From what he has seen from the lineup, Joshuah is heartened by the Singapore films.
He said: “The main thing that I have gotten [out of the films] is that there are a lot of talented filmmakers now. I don’t think it’s a rarity now. I think that these filmmakers really care about their craft and we can tell that a voice is forming amongst the younger generation.”
“When I saw Nelson Yeo’s film [Here is Not There], I went: ‘Wow! This is great, man! I really want to do something like that.’ Honestly, for me personally, it gives me hope when I see a Singapore director at the SGIFF.”
Joshuah praised the festival’s support for young filmmakers, giving them opportunities for recognition and to make waves even if it is through their debut short films. His participation in the festival – both as a filmmaker and as a youth critic – has found him support through the form of a community.
On how critics can improve Singapore’s film ecosystem, Joshuah shared: “I think it really depends on what kind of film critic you are. I feel that a film critic is meant to draw out the best of the film and to analyse and understand it. I feel like film criticism, if done well with supporting structures, can create a new generation of people who understand and love films.”
“In the long term, this can develop Singapore’s culture better. For me, I think film is a representation of our culture… the film critic helps us understand why films are being made, the filmmaker’s message, and the film’s heartbeat. And I think that heartbeat, when understood by readers, could potentially change culture.”
Together with the workload from the participation, Joshuah is also currently juggling between freelance work and school work. As a young critic, he hopes for dedicated columns in big publications or even a magazine for youths and by youths on Southeast Asian cinema.
As a young filmmaker, he hopes for more mentorship opportunities as a director. Joshuah is currently freelancing as a production assistant cum driver. He added: “I would love to apprentice properly. The film industry is huge but small and I believe I’m a little bit of an outlier… I feel that it would be good if we have bridges, helping people like me or even those who are new to film to find mentors, follow under their wing and learn together to make better films.”
“I also hope there are more film collectives for the younger generation of filmmakers. I know that most of the film collectives are huge directors coming together – which are amazing since they do amazing works. But I wish that these film collectives would give more apprenticeship opportunities to the younger filmmakers.”
Joshuah will be shooting his next film in December. Titled Gone are the Moat and the Walls, his thesis film is about modernisation and spiritualism, based around a puppet master who returns to Singapore after 20 years away and realises that the country is not the same. He said: “I really wanted to explore the spiritual man in a modern city and where he stands among meritocracy or policies and our beautiful streets. I feel a lot for this film [especially when] I know I have been struggling to find my place as well.”
“Afterwards, I’m going to graduate, figure out my life and see if I can make enough money to make films. If not, I hope to get married, be happy, and lead a quiet life.”
Catch Joshuah’s short film And They Roamed as part of SGIFF’s Singapore Panorama programme. The programme will be showcasing a collection of Singapore’s latest independent feature and short films, looking to reflect the country’s state of independent filmmaking.
And They Roamed will be screened together with five other shorts in Singapore Panorama Shorts Programme 1 at Filmgarde Bugis on 1 December to a sold-out theatre. However, thanks to the festival’s hybrid format, the programmes are also available online. For more information on Singapore Panorama, visit its website here.
About the Singapore International Film Festival
The marquee event of Singapore’s film calendar returns for its 31st edition from 26 November to 6 December 2020. It will present 70 films by filmmakers from 49 countries through a hybrid format of both cinema and online film screenings, together with a slew of talks and panel discussions. For the latest updates on all things SGIFF, follow the festival on Facebook and Instagram.
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– Interview: Emily Hoe, Executive Director, Singapore International Film Festival 2020