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Award-winning filmmaker Tan Pin Pin returns with documentary on time capsules

SINGAPORE – Acclaimed Singaporean filmmaker Tan Pin Pin’s latest documentary feature In Time to Come makes a homecoming after doing its rounds at several notable film festivals around the world.

SINGAPORE – Acclaimed Singaporean filmmaker Tan Pin Pin’s latest documentary feature In Time to Come makes a homecoming after doing its rounds at several notable film festivals around the world.

First premiered at the Visions du Réel festival in Nyon, Switzerland, the documentary opens in Singapore from Sep 28 at Filmgarde Cineplex at Bugis+.

Tan described her latest documentary as “a floaty time travel experience” set in Singapore.

The film follows the ritualistic exhumation of an old Singapore time capsule as well as the compilation of another. Viewers see remnants of life from 25 years ago as the capsule is opened, such as a bottle of water from the Singapore River and a copy of Yellow Pages. Interspersed are scenes from moments of daily life – like commuters on the train, a school fire drill – and certain local milestone events such as the famous Banyan tree behind The Substation being uprooted in 2014.

In the preparation of a new time capsule, scenes show objects such as a life jacket and a lion’s head mask being placed in the container to be opened decades later.

The film runs for 62 minutes without narration and dialogue.

Tan’s last documentary To Singapore, with Love was disallowed public screenings locally because of the Media Development Authority’s (MDA) “Not Allowed for All Ratings” classification.

Speaking to TODAY, Tan explained: “In Time to Come asks what one would put in a time capsule if asked to make one… that would contain how we want to be remembered by future generations.”

Tan also shared that she has had a fascination with time capsules since childhood. “When I was primary three or four, I went to the Science Centre and there was a time capsule that was buried that was going to be opened in 2009. I thought (about) how old I would be when it’s open and I wanted to be there.

“When I heard all these time capsules were being prepared for SG50, I wanted to be there to witness the exhumation of the SG25 time capsule and the all these different capsules that were being buried,” said Tan, who witnessed and documented the milestone event in 2015.

According to Tan, she was also motivated by an earlier documentary she made in 2007 titled Invisible City about Singapore archivists, photographers, archaeologists who document Singapore as part of their work.

“Inspired by their efforts, I decided that this was a good time to document Singapore for myself, rather than just cover others doing it. The time capsule concept provided a (focal point) good holder for the scenes that I shot,” said Tan.

She hopes the film will provide an opportunity for audiences to see Singapore in a different light in this film.

“Familiar scenes of life are woven together in an unfamiliar way. This is one film that should be caught in the cinemas because the sound design is a vital part of the film, more than any of my previous films, and it is designed for a 5.1 (surround sound) audio environment.

“The film adds to the debate, what is Singapore. What makes Singapore, Singapore,” she added.

In Time to Come took four years to complete, from 2012 to 2016, and it was made with support from the Singapore Film Commission’s New Talent Feature Grant, a Hong Kong – Asian Film Financing Forum Award and an Artist Residency at Nanyang Technological University’s Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore.

It first premiered at the Visions du Réel Festival in Nyon, Switzerland, and has since also been featured at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto and Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK, among other respected venues. Broadcast rights have also been sold to South Korean national broadcaster EBS.


In Time to Come runs for a limited period at Filmgarde Cineplex at Bugis+.


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