'Forgotten Merlion' (dir. Ghazi Alqudcy, Ezzam Rahman) — ADM 26

Forgotten Merlion offers a balm to that clichéd montage of Singaporeans that we see every National Day, their smiles locked into place as a patriotic song swells in the soundtrack. In this documentary, the filmmakers get a bunch of Singaporeans of mixed race, gender and occupation to sing our national anthem, unrehearsed. The final film stitches their individual efforts together into a collective whole, and lays over the anthem's lyrics as subtitles.

It's a deceptively simple orchestration with huge payoffs: watching these Singaporeans stumble over the same lines we do — swapping "bersatu" and "berseru", forgetting that there's a repeated verse, or bungling entire lines — makes it easy for us to identify with them. The film also renews the old questions about 1) having a national anthem in a language many of us don't speak and, as a result, not fully intending the lyrics as we sing them; and 2) whitewashing our past mistakes, as our history books and culture tend to do. As we move into the encore, these Singaporeans' newly consolidated efforts, with our prior knowledge of how they've patched up their performance, speak more strongly about our coming together as a nation than if they'd merely been shown once singing straight and true.

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