Singapore Gaga, a local media favourite at this year's Singapore International Film Festival, has been invited for screening at the prestigious Rotterdam Film Festival. Meanwhile, director Tan Pin Pin and other filmmakers are planning to seek from the Media Development Authority clearer guidelines on what constitutes a 'party political film' . I am currently under police investigation for making such a film.
Both Singapore Gaga and internet soccer film Tak Giu has been lauded by the local media for their humorous expose of the Singaporean ethos. Tak Giu has been singled out as "radical stuff" and an illustration of how filmmakers can still question authorities without breaching the Films Act. (Get the hint, Mr Martyn See? You can still make art without getting into trouble with the law.)
Herein lies the paradox of the making political films in Singapore.
"Biased" political films are banned because the legislators in Government claim that politics in Singapore should not be trivialised. Yet, filmmakers who want to tackle serious socio-political issues are expected to lace their work with humour, satire and slapstick just so the Government can allow their work to be shown.
By the way, I am one of the editors of Singapore Gaga. You can watch it at the Substation Arts Centre from July 1 - 3.
Posted: 20 June 2005 1924 hrs
Local film to be screened at Rotterdam Film Festival
By Joanne Leow, Channel NewsAsia
SINGAPORE: It's a film that has a cast of thousands - and they're all Singaporeans. Tan Pin Pin's "Singapore Gaga", a bittersweet documentary on life in Singapore, played to standing-room-only audiences when it made its world premiere at this year's Singapore Film Festival.
And it moved one European film festival organiser so much that he immediately reserved a slot for it at next year's Rotterdam International Film Festival.
But making "Singapore Gaga" had not been easy.
It's all about the sights and sounds of Singapore that we take for granted.
From dialect news readers from MediaCorp Radio to eccentric buskers plying their trade, "Singapore Gaga" has it all - it even reveals why recorders were used for music curriculum in Singapore instead of harmonicas.
All this comes together in an hour-long film on the frustrations and joys about what it means to be a Singaporean.
Director Tan Pin Pin said:
"I was trying very hard to find a side of Singapore that I love and enjoy and I found that in people I have passed by every day on my way to work.
"And, using performances and sounds was really just a portal to enter into that world, that really murky world, bittersweet world of being a Singaporean."
Household name and ventriloquist Victor Khoo felt it was an honour to be part of the project.
He said: "Charlie to me, is to Singaporeans what I think Mickey Mouse is to Americans. A lot of Singaporeans grew up with Charlie and I felt it was about time that Charlie was recognised."
Like most local film makers, Pin Pin faced some challenges when it came to funding 'Singapore Gaga'.
The film cost about $100,000 to put together.
She said there were other constraints that she was worried about when she was making the film.
She hired a lawyer right from the start to make sure that she wouldn't run afoul of Singapore's Film Act, which forbids films of a political nature.
She said: "There is a culture of self-censorship. But I think our duty as artists and film makers is to deal with it in our own hearts and minds and not actually to let it overwhelm us."
"That film is also about normal people talking about what they feel about Singapore, which could also be perceived as being political. So potentially I could be unable to have this film shown," she added.
Pin Pin also said: "So if there was anything that could support film makers, is to sort of take that guillotine off our backs. That would be really helpful.
"I'm sure that when you see it, you'll really enjoy it and you will think that it's actually harmless. But when you're actually making it, dealing with the nuts and bolts of it, dealing with every frame, you're actually making very deliberate choices, and unnecessary ones, I feel."
Pin Pin is working with other film makers to ask the Media Development Authority for clearer guidelines on what constitutes a political film.
They hope Members of Parliament will also bring this up in Parliament.
"Singapore Gaga" will be screened at the Substation in early July and there are plans to release it commercially later this year. - CNA/ir