STOP10 Mar 2017: 'Aik Khoon' by Chris Yeo and Andie Chen
The film takes a turn in tone after showing the strained relationship between Chong Hua and his son. The shallow babble concerned primarily with objectifying women past and present, suddenly falls away into something heavier, the weight of lost dreams and ambitions.
Aik Khoon, an old short film from 2005, by Chris Yeo and Andie Chen, will be screened as part of the National Museum of Singapore's Cinémathèque Selects programme.
The short film centers on the friendship between a taxi driver and his childhood friend. In an unusual arrangement, Chong Hua rides shotgun in the taxi even as Aik Khoon picks up customers. They keep up a banter throughout the film, with Chong Hua being the more talkative of the two. A female customer leaves the taxi after being stared at lewdly by Chong Hua, a moment of sexual harassment that is played for laughs. Chong Hua is like a parasite that Aik Khoon can't shake off, one that he picked up in primary school and that has been with him ever since. Yet the other side of the coin is he probably knows Aik Khoon better than anyone.
Chong Hua is a provocative character, irreverent and politically incorrect. He is perhaps a caricature or larger-than-life version of the 'chikopek' (perverted uncle) who hangs out at kopitiams. His son's response to him is a mixture of revulsion, sympathy and secondhand embarrassment. Aik Khoon, on the other hand, is turned inward, with controlled facial expressions and a less frenetic movement. His back story is implied to be one of a fall from societal prestige. The thoughtful sound design helps to prop up his character's emotions in the film.
We spoke to director Chris Yeo and got him to jog his 12-year old memory of the film for us.
Your father plays the main character in the film, how was the experience of directing your father?
It's not hard to imagine the kind of awkward situation directing one's parent, especially when the script is based off a certain reality and for him to confront the image of himself as characterized by his son. The arrangement was also that Andie did most of the direct communication with the actors while I kept a necessary distance behind the camera as the writer/cinematographer. In a sense, it was therapeutic, without us speaking too much. I reached out to him through the script and he responded back to me by his performance through the camera.
Why the decision to make a film about him?
My family was in bad financial shape at that point of time. I saw a proud man falling from grace and how it had affected the relationships around him, between his wife, his children, his friends and himself. At that age, I could only use the tools that I had at hand to deal with this. So I made a film.
Did a real friendship inspire the film?
The friend in the film was a collage of the colourful friends my father kept around him. When he was still driving a taxi, he would sometimes give me a lift and there was always a friend in the front seat who would tag along, even when he was on duty ferrying passengers. I could quietly observe their interaction from the backseat with a certain invisibility - a writer's dream. I remember, there were two of them whose name was both "Tony". It was quite absurd.
Greatest challenge making the film?
It's hard to emphasize one challenge over the other (we were still shooting on film then) but since we are on the topic of my father, I remember a time when he saw in the script that I have come to understand things that he would not have wanted me to know, not yet, not then. But still he managed to bare himself to the camera - with me hiding behind it. I cannot imagine that to be easy. It was only after some years, maybe five, that we spoke about this film again.
This month's Cinematheque Selects focusses on sound design and showcases the short films works of sound designer Lim Ting Li. Aik Khoon is one of the short films she has done sound design for and she has this to say about her work in the film....
Aik Khoon was one of my first works and I think I was trying to fill it up with as many sounds as I could. It was also one of my first time working with a composer (the very talented Teo Weiyong) and it forever cemented the way of how I think sound and music must work interwoven and hand-in-hand together.
Date: Saturday 11 March 2017
Time: 2 pm
Venue: Gallery Theatre, Basement, National Museum of Singapore
Cinémathèque Selects is a monthly double-bill screening that brings together a Singapore film and a second film that inspired it. Each double-bill is accompanied by a “Question and Answer” session with the Singaporean film-maker. Focusing on diverse aspects of film-making, from directing to producing, script writing to cinematography and art direction, the series is a study of important local productions.
For the latest classification ratings and information, please visit www.nationalmuseum.sg.
Standard Ticket: $11 for one film, $16 for both films
Concession (for student, senior aged 60 & above & NSF with valid ID): $9
Group Bookings: $6.50 per ticket for a minimum of 5 pax
Tickets are available from SISTIC at http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/ccinema0317
Ticket price excludes $1 SISTIC fee.
Written by Jacqueline Lee
For the full list of March 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.