STOP10 Feb 2017: 'Flooding in the time of Drought' by Sherman Ong


Originally showcased at the 2008 Singapore Biennale, ‘Flooding in the Time of Drought’ by artist-filmmaker Sherman Ong, was a two-part art installation that comprised 2 92-minute docu-dramas, titled ‘Drought’ and ‘Flood’. This film is a yin-yang take on a view of Singapore from outsiders. 8 immigrant couples and their separate conversations make up the total 184 minutes of running time. Yin-Yang because what they talk about can be both absurd and yet painfully real. Moreover, the film uses a heavy dose of irony to make its point about what seems like an increasingly dystopian experience living in Singapore.


In the film’s setting, Singapore is facing floods. Yet it is also running out of water and there is no way to harness and use the flood water. In trying to make sense of the situation, the film takes us through anxiety, fear, helplessness, memory and superstitions (like a Thai man needing to wear women’s clothes to sleep to escape the ‘sleeping-death syndrome’) in a no less than 10 different languages including Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Tagalog, Mandarin, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Thai, Indonesian, Malay, Hokkien. It is also interesting that what could have been a series of interviews with these real immigrants has evolved into play-acting. These immigrants act out their own lives, views and feelings in 8 fictional shoe-box dramas.     
This film will be screened again this month at the Marina Bay Sands ArtScience Museum under the ArtScience on Screen programme. ArtScience on Screen explores the intersection between art and science using moving image, video and film. In a rolling programme, ArtScience on Screen features a range of exciting filmmakers and artists from Singapore and beyond, at various stages of their careers.  This season, the theme is Water. The curated feature-length narrative films, which include ‘Flooding in the Time of Drought’, cover themes as broad as climate change, ocean conservation, cultural heritage, memory, play, romance and death.

Apart from Sherman, the series features prominent Southeast Asian artists and filmmakers such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Woo Ming Jin, Charliebebs Gohetia, Nghiem-Minh Nguyen-Vo and Kamila Andini. In Apichatpong’s ‘Mekong Hotel’ water is the source of, and backdrop for conflict and depravity. Woo Ming Jin uses his camera to tell stories and ‘Woman On Fire Looks for Water’ is a cinematographic masterwork surrounding the vanishing tradition of fishing for livelihood in Malaysia. Charlibebs Gohetia’s ‘Chasing Waves’ offers a glimpse into two young boys’ imaginations on the brink of their families being torn apart by adverse environmental and political climates. Kamila Andini’s ‘The Mirror Never Lies’, a masterfully told story of an Indonesian fishing village on the verge of irreparable crisis.  

Here are the screening details:
Venue: Expression Gallery, Level 4, ArtsScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands
Date & Time:
- Flooding in the time of Drought  -
  (7 Feb) - 11am, 3pm
  (12 Feb) - 11am, 3pm
  (13 Feb) - 11am, 3pm
  (20 Feb) - 11am, 3pm
  (23 Feb) - 11am, 3pm
- Mekong Hotel (2 Feb) - Screening on the hour, every hour from 11am - 6pm
- The Mirror Never Lies (3 Feb) - 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm
- Woman on Fire Looks for Water (4 Feb) - 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm
- Chasing Waves (5 Feb) - 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm
Entry by admission to ArtScience Museum.

Check out the film synopses of all the films here. 

The film has travelled well on the film festival circuit over the years. Here is a list of the festivals it has screened at:
2013
• Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Cinema), Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane
• Casa Asia Madrid & Barcelona, Spain


2011
• Unseen: Cinema of the 21st Century, Queensland Art Gallery, Australia

2010
• Malaysia, Singapore Cinema! Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
• Rainbow Asia, Hangaram Museum, Seoul Art Centre, Korea
• Rotterdam International Film Festival, Netherlands
• Rome Asian Film Festival, Italy
• Barcelona Asian Film Festival, Spain

2009
• Code Share: 10 Biennales, 20 Artists, Contemporary Art Centre Vilnius, Lithuania
• South Australia Contemporary Art Centre, Australia
• Asian Competition, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Hong Kong SAR
• Competition Cinema Digital Seoul, Korea
• Bangkok World Film Festival Thailand


"Decades from now, these movies are going to serve as some of the most authentic cinematic documents of how we actually lived in Singapore in the early 21st century. I'm impressed."- Ny Yi-Sheng (Poet, Playwright, Singapore Literature Prize 2008) on ‘Flooding in the Time of Drought’

More reviews on the film in the film's blog site.

About Sherman Ong

Sherman is one of SE Asia’s most celebrated filmmakers, photographers and visual artists. His practice is centered on the human condition and our relationships with others within the larger milieu. Winner of the prestigious 2010 ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu Photography Award, Ong has premiered works in Art Biennales, major Film Festivals and Museums around the world.

Written by Jeremy Sing

For the full list of February 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.

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