Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Local film-makers take centrestage

SINGAPORE — The Singapore film scene is certainly enjoying a strong buzz this year with local films screening at overseas film festivals such as Cannes and, most recently, the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). Three Singaporean film-makers, K Rajagopal, Gladys Ng and the late Abdul Nizam, will also be given prominence at this year’s Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) in November.

SINGAPORE — The Singapore film scene is certainly enjoying a strong buzz this year with local films screening at overseas film festivals such as Cannes and, most recently, the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). Three Singaporean film-makers, K Rajagopal, Gladys Ng and the late Abdul Nizam, will also be given prominence at this year’s Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) in November.

When TODAY spoke with Ng and Rajagopal to gain insight into how far Singapore film-makers have come, both were unanimous in their response: The best is yet to come for the scene.

“I would not say (the local film industry) is thriving, but I certainly feel that there is more recognition and support for the craft. We have film schools and more young film-makers who consider this as a viable career path,” said Rajagopal.

“We still have a long way to go, we should not be complacent. I think there should be more opportunities for films to be produced in the future. We definitely have stories that are worth sharing on film.”

Ng, who added that it is a great time to be making films now, said she does wish “more people would go out to the cinemas to watch local films and to see the work for its value”.

Rajagopal, who is known for directing and co-writing A Yellow Bird, which was screened as part of the Asian film showcase at BIFF after its debut at the International Critics’ Week at Cannes in May, will be competing at the Silver Screen Awards at the SGIFF later this year.

The 51-year-old film-maker did not expect the response to his film, which portrays the struggle of an Indian ex-convict struggling to readjust and fit in with society. “I was overwhelmed with the invitation to be part of the Cannes Film Festival. It was my first feature (and) having a world premiere at a prestigious festival like Cannes was something I really did not expect.”

Sharing how he came up with the idea for the film, Rajagopal said he drew inspiration from his own identity as an Indian person born and living in Singapore and his experience connecting with his roots over the years. He also realised that, over the last few years, he has been asked a number of times where he is from whenever he meets new people in a social setting.

“This triggered the story of A Yellow Bird as I started to feel that I was not recognised as a Singaporean and (was) often thought to be a foreigner in my own country,” he mused.

Rajagopal is not new to the film scene in Singapore. He made his first short film 20 years ago and continued for three years, making another four more short films, before stopping because he felt he was not very savvy in the craft, and did not know how to progress further. Moreover, he found that funding sources were limited at that point, unlike now.

It was only 10 years later that he made his fifth short film. Shortly after, he embarked on his first feature film A Yellow Bird with the support of the New Talent Grant from the Singapore Film Commission and Media Development Authority.

Rajagopal said he is grateful that he persevered and did not give up film-making, and hopes that “the audience will be challenged and inspired by my films in some way”.

His experience has also taught him one thing: Dreams do come true. “It took me 20 years to make my first feature so I am not going to stop anytime soon. I am going to continue to tell my stories.”

As for Ng, who has been commissioned by the SGIFF to produce a short film that will make its world premiere at the festival this year titled Pursuit Of A Happy Human Life, she, too, gained confidence when she found her work being recognised.

Last year, the 28-year-old filmmaker won the Best Singapore Short Film award under the SEA Short Film category as part of the Silver Screen Awards at the SGIFF. Her film My Father After Dinner tells the story of an old security guard who cooks dinner for his daughter and her family every week. It was inspired by Ng’s own life, as she watched her retired father preparing dinner for her family every Sunday.

Pursuit Of A Happy Human Life, on the other hand, tells the story of two best friends who spend their time together against the backdrop of the impending O-Level examinations, before one of them moves overseas.

“It’s a lot of work putting a film together, gathering the team, juggling the technical and logistical aspects. It requires a lot of communication, and at the start, I wasn’t sure if someone as reserved as I am would make the cut as a director,” she explained.

“But I’ve come to realise you don’t have to be loud to be a director. It’s about gathering like-minded individuals and building a common vocab. The same crew who worked on My Father after Dinner came back on board for the Pursuit Of A Happy Human Life, and, as a team, we’re growing together.”

Ng also said that the initiative started by the SGIFF this year — to commission a new short film by a Singapore film-maker to showcase up-and-coming Singapore talents — is encouraging for young film-makers “because getting funded is a crucial step in getting a film off the ground”.

“Without the resources to produce a film, an idea or a vision will always remain in (one’s) imagination,” she added.

“The SGIFF has been a stepping stone for many film-makers before me. With the support of the festival and being recognised and validated by them, I feel a little more confident to create my next piece of work.” Reena Devi

The 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) runs from Nov 23 to Dec 4.

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa