Conversations on National Day Videos (Part 1)

Before August ends, take a trip down with us through memory lane as we briefly discuss four of the most recent National Day song videos. It's a continuing struggle for local filmmakers to find non-generic themes, images and stories that bind, represent and move us, so it's with this in mind that we turn to each of these videos, looking out for what catches our eye, what works for us and what doesn't.



Jeremy: Everyone remembers how Gani (the singer in shades) swaggered through the streets with hordes of office men behind him as an entourage. I felt it made the effort to be different... though sometimes to unintended hilarity.

Colin: Well, it does try for a larger cross-section of places (and "representative people") than this sort of video tends to go for: schools, kindergartens, the National Stadium, some non-discreet ethnic gathering, shipyards, HDB blocks, office buildings. But it might have been less unintentionally funny if it weren't clear that these were just grinning extras trailing behind the lead singers in each locale. Perhaps if they'd all been singing, there'd be a greater sense of "community".

Raymond: Like what Colin said, I agree that it does go for a larger cross section of places and it is a very inclusive video, showcasing people from all different walks of life. I thought it did a very good job in portraying the family feeling of Singapore, that we're all one despite our different backgrounds. But I wish that for a song exhorting the individual to make a difference, there can be a more individualistic spin towards it. I mean, I know it is a National Day video, and ultimately it is supposed to unite different groups. But I wish there could have been a balance in the video, maybe showing different individuals at work or something, then cutting to the groups walking together.

Jeremy: Didn't they? There was an old couple, the three girls in tudungs, the Chinese wayang girl — all such a relief from the “workforce armies”...

Raymond: But they weren't really doing anything in the video, just sitting around. How to make a difference like that you tell me? At least in the group shots we see their career types and we know their backgrounds so we know what they are doing to “make a difference”.

Colin: Jeremy, your “workforce armies” is such an apt term, pointing out exactly what rings false for me in this video. The sight of huge swathes of similarly dressed people striding after a leader recalls protest marches, which are such a foreign concept to Singaporeans that it's weird even when it's repurposed for nationalistic aims.

Jeremy: Even so, I must say it is quite a daring video, given that the chances of it being slammed were great. Overall, I have a love-hate relationship with it, more love actually because it is incredibly cheesy. So cheesy, it's entertaining! And I will always remember the shot in which the workers are rushing down the stairs of a building, looking like they are performing a fire drill, haha!



Raymond: Well, unlike "Will You", I have to say the cheesiness of 2008's "Shine for Singapore" does not work for it... like the stars falling while Hady Mirza was singing. Just lame and tacky! While I think it is refreshing to try to incorporate a pseudo love story into the video, I don't see how it is congruent to the rest of the video, and I don't see how it complements the lyrics in any way... unless it is trying to say that falling in love and making babies is a way to shine for Singapore. Okay yeah, I forgot that's our national duty. Patriotism demands of us to bear lots of children =)

Colin: See, my issue with "Shine for Singapore" lies solely in the lazily edited-in cuts of Hady singing, because the video was obviously conceived as a narrative montage. And an innovative one, considering it actually tries for a more plaintive mood than we're used to in NDP videos.

Jeremy: Yeah, the studio shot look of Hady standing amidst the floating stars look shoddily put together. I remember the '07, '08 periods were times when a lot of prominent filmmakers began to have opportunities to shoot national videos like these so I am not surprised with the storyline. It is certainly a nice change and it has a more personal feel as well. The only 'but' is that it is forgettable.

Raymond: Maybe if they just totally didn't include shots of Hady Mirza and included in more “mini narratives”, it could have been a really good ND video.

Jeremy: Perhaps they ran out of budget. Yeah, mini narratives to complete the 'human' aspects of the Singapore-scape instead of the usual concrete will be good. One more thing I don’t like - the very sanitised look of Singapore. It looks totally choreographed - pastel white walls, light-coloured clothing, plenty of close-ups so not a lot of the scenery outside is revealed. Anyway, I am very glad they tried the 'individualistic' style again in 2009 and it worked nicely for me.

Stay tuned for Part 2, as we roll over into the most recent National Day videos!

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