SGIFF Review: Canopy by Aaron Wilson

When one mentions or even thinks about Singapore, the first few qualities about her that comes to mind would be the tall man-made buildings, various tourist attractions as well as rigid traffic rules and the infamous ERPs planted all around.

Despite being called the Garden City – are we still called that now? – no one would think about the greenery that actually surrounds this place we call home. After all, construction sites are popping up at every corner and uprooting the greens to make way for more grey, white and new condominiums.

So it was indeed a pleasant surprise to discover that Aaron Wilson’s Canopy was entirely shot in Singapore some time back.

The film is about how war affects an individual’s psyche – the mind-numbing fear, sudden adjustments to new environments as well as situations and the prospect of death at every corner one turns.

It follows the journey of an Australian fighter pilot after he is shot down during World War II and found himself in the Singapore jungle. Meeting obstacles, potential help (a local Chinese farm boy) as well as enemies along the way, viewers are invited to experience Singapore in a very different light.

Personally, I found the film to be captivating and enchanting despite the difficult as well as heartbreaking circumstances. The pacing was of a slow burn rather than a typical action-driven war film, but the tension and constant raising of stakes as the film went along held the action together.


With no subtitles, the film goes back to the focus of body language, facial expressions and relationships to tell the story – transcending culture and language barriers.

Made up of beautifully shot moments, Canopy is a visual feast for those with a keen eye for beauty as well as subtle details. There is a great focus on the surroundings and the composition of nature. Just like the variety of emotions portrayed by the stellar cast, viewers are able to feel the depth and even the curious textures of the greenery as the camera pans from all sorts of angles smoothly.

My favourite quality of this entire film would be the soundscape. Even though the film is mostly quiet in terms of dialogue, it is rich in bringing out the common sounds that we do not know how to appreciate or even notice in this day and age: leaves crunching under foot, hidden birds chirping away, running water and our own footsteps.

Canopy is a perfect example of how simplicity is key in making a strong impression in the minds of viewers. One does not need a lot of special effects and a predictable, sappy storyline to touch hearts. All it really takes is a good story to tell and a dedicated team to make magic happen on screen.

Review by Dawn Teo

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