Getting Singaporeans To Take Pride In Homegrown Films

7 June 2018 |  Daniel Yun  |  Today

Director Anthony Chen (far left) and the cast of Ilo Ilo at the 2013 Golden Horse Awards. In a country where Hollywood titles dominate, Singapore films are shut out because they do not have the funds to compete for visibility and share of voice, says the author.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Singapore Film Commission (SFC), whose role is to support and promote Singapore film through funding, training and public education.

It would appear that SFC, now a division under the Info-communications Media Development Authority, has many notable achievements to celebrate.

This perhaps is a time to take a step back and look at the relationship between Singaporeans and Singapore films.

With the international success of Ilo Ilo, winning the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and the best feature film at the 50th Golden Horse Awards, followed by more global accolades for Apprentice, Yellow Bird and Pop Aye, we can safely say Singapore independent filmmaking has come of age.

Yet do these achievements mean anything to Singaporeans? Continue reading

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Singapore’s Film Industry Has Come A Long Way In 20 Years

31 May 2018 |  Daniel Yun  |  Today

SFC advisory committee chairman Jennie Chua (second from left) and SFC director Joachim Ng (far right) are seen here at the 20th anniversary celebrations of SFC with the trio who kickstarted the idea of setting up a film commission - Mr James Toh (far left), Mr Eric Khoo and Ms Lucilla Teoh.

The Singapore Film Commission (SFC) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. It is opportune, at this point, to take a look at how far the Singapore film industry has come and the role the SFC played in its development in the last two decades.  

It was filmmaker Eric Khoo, along with producer James Toh and artist Lucilla Teoh, who after extensive research, came up with what would be the white paper that helped create the SFC.

On March 16, 1998, the then Minister for Information and the Arts George Yeo announced in Parliament the formation of the film commission.

Its role is to “nurture, support and promote Singapore talent in filmmaking, the production of Singapore films and a film industry in Singapore” through funding, training and public education.

To date, the SFC, now a division under the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), has supported a total of 68 movies.

Continue reading

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At The Chinese Shop

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This afternoon, I found myself having almost an hour of free time after lunch in a shopping mall. My next meeting was in the next building. I remembered a shop selling artefacts, almost entirely Chinese, to mostly tourists. It is run by an elderly couple. They speak Cantonese and sometimes a brand of English I guess some tourists may understand. Last year during the mid-autumn festival promotion, I saw the husband exhibit their wares in the common area of the mall. I walked into the shop and the husband welcomed me. After a while, he mentioned something I bought from him years ago, perhaps to register he remembered me. The artefacts in the shop looked the same, not much has changed. I asked after his business and he said, same same, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. I looked around and was about to ask. He stopped me. And said, “她不在了.” She is not here anymore. He looked slightly pained but he looked straight into my eyes. I could not look away and kept the gaze, not knowing exactly what to say. After a while, I said I was sorry, but he perked up and told me not to say I was sorry. This was life and he needed to carry on doing what they did, just that now he would do it alone. I asked if he needed someone to help him. No need, he said. He could manage. By now, he had moved to the table at the end of the shop. He sat down. I saw food and realised I had interrupted his lunch. Before I could apologise again, he said, pointing to a framed photograph of his wife on the table, “she still has lunch with me.” His wife smiles widely from the picture. I was silent. Then this old man said something, almost like a parting shot. “I was sad. I allowed myself to be sad. But only during the time of mourning. She is gone. I am still alive. Sadness is easier because it’s surrender. I will not surrender. Not when I am alive. She will want me to live my life…”

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Film-making — From Made in Singapore to Made by Singapore

03 April 2018 |  Daniel Yun  |  Today

Director Eric Khoo (centre, in jeans) with the cast of Ramen Teh.  The author says the film, which has been sold to over 40 countries, is an example of how boundaries between countries, between races and between cultures are crossed and blurred.  Photo: Facebook / Ramen Teh

Ramen Teh marks coming of age of co-productions with foreign partners

Recently a young guy I know, who we sometimes broadly categorise as a millennial, asked me gushingly: “Do you know Takumi Saitoh is in a Singapore film?” I nodded briefly. I thought he should be referring to the Eric Khoo movie starring Japanese pop idol Seiko Matsuda alongside Mark Lee and Jeannette Aw.

After watching Ramen Teh, I left the cinema feeling a little overwhelmed.

The perennial and single biggest challenge our semblance of a film industry faces has been our small market. The two most logical solutions have been to produce movies that can travel to foreign markets, and to co-produce with overseas filmmakers.

Yet our filmmakers have taken decades to come around to fully comprehending these seemingly simple solutions as well as adjusting their approaches and skill-sets to finally yield some results. Continue reading

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Ramen Teh

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When was the last time, while watching a movie, you realised you have started caring for a character without knowing? And when something momentous happens to the character, you feel all the significance. At a special screening of ‘Ramen Teh’ last evening, many in the audience started to tear without fully comprehending why. Such deftness in character portrayal, the incredible lightness of unraveling a story, can only come from an experienced hand. There is also a simplicity that can only come from matured understanding of the human condition. Even when a seemingly heavy subject matter is introduced, there is no judgement, the film still feels light, there is no unevenness in tone. In fact, there is an enjoyable leisurely pace consistent from start to end; the whole movie is an exercise in simplicity and lightness. Yet it does not take away from the most endearing reason to watch this movie – at its core, ‘Ramen Teh’ has a big heart. There is tenderness in ways the director handles the characters, as there is love in ways he directs and shoots the food dishes. I have never felt more proud of our local food. To have famous Japanese chefs enjoying and aspiring to master cooking some of them! To have a foreigner describing a famous local dish in details we always knew but never heard in Japanese. This a film Singaporeans at large can be proud of. As a collaboration between Singapore and Japan, the narrative feels real, the local and Japanese elements are integral, the ingredients organic to each other. ‘Ramen Teh’ opens in cinemas today. If there is a Singapore film to watch, one you can savour both the taste of local and Japanese cuisines, one with an ensemble cast, one with the indomitable Mark Lee, and one with the ageless Seiko Matsuda…

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