STOP10 May 2017: 《回程 667》by Royston Tan feat. 5 directors


Director Royston Tan has dropped a new set of numbers to tease local audiences. 667, to be exact. Royston plays producer to 5 filmmakers who each direct a short film to form this anthology. The film is part of the inaugural Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre Cutural Extravaganza. This project challenges each filmmaker to go in search of their own cultural roots, and produce a short film on their journey of self-discovery.

What exactly does 667 mean?
According to Royston, the 5 sections of 667 are all very different and yet, they convey the emotions and perspectives of the five filmmakers as they explore who they are as Singaporean Chinese and the heritage they represent during their journey to discover their cultural roots. They are powerful stories and we know a lot of Singaporeans will be able to identify with them. This also played a big consideration when we were thinking about the title for the project. The HDB flats came to mind as they are home to a lot of us in Singapore and during the early years of development, they played a big part to bring different communities together. The number ‘667’ refers to the average size – in square feet – of a three-room HDB flat in Singapore, home to many Singaporeans during those early years.  
The five film-makers are Eva Tang (The Songs We Sang), He Shuming (And The Wind Falls), Kirsten Tan (POPAYE), Liao Jiekai (Red Dragonflies) and Jun Chong, who will be debuting his first film.
From tracing the roots of cinema to opera-inspired stories, audiences can be prepared to be surprised by heartfelt works down memory lanes. And while doing so, experience what family truly means and hold the ones we love even closer than before.
Beyond all this, 667 is a personal discovery for the respective film makers as well. “667 is a personal journey, and in a way introspection by our five filmmakers as they look at their own cultural roots and explore different aspects of Singapore’s Chinese culture. It is also exciting as we are telling these stories through the next generation of filmmakers who are good and passionate in what they do. We believe their stories will resonate with Singaporeans of all ages,” Royston explained further.

Watch the trailer here:


Here is the line-up:

THE VEILED WILLOW ( 柳影袈裟 ) BY EVA TANG
It is the 1960s, a period of economic transition in Singapore. Left with no choice, Chef Tham has to leave the household he has been working for to take on a job as a chef in a restaurant, leaving the loyal maid servant, Lau-jie, to care for Second Grandma. After her children and grandchildren have moved out, Second Grandma is faced with the loneliness of staying in an empty house, yet it is still her wish for Lau-jie to marry Chef Tham. Unfortunately, they belong to a generation who carries the burden of unspoken heartaches to themselves.   
"One of the many challenges in making a Cantonese short film in Singapore is that it is very hard to find Singaporeans who can speak fluent Cantonese nowadays. More than 95% of the dialogues in the short film was written in Cantonese. I was thinking to myself when was the last time we could hear so much dialect on the big screen from a local production, and not get banned? I feel this “soundscape” has been lost since the late 70s.Through making 《柳影袈裟》(The Veiled Willow), I am also discovering the beauty of the Cantonese language and culture. The title of the short film is the name of a traditional Cantonese vegetarian dish which has disappeared in Singapore. Even the name of the cuisine is poetic. It is inserting green vegetable into bamboo fungus. The making of traditional Cantonese cuisine takes a lot of effort which is a craft we are losing now. While preparing for this short film, I did some research on our Cantonese food in the 60s, and visited the traditional Cantonese restaurants that still remain. In the 60s, Singapore had “4 heavenly Cantonese chefs” and they were very innovative at that time. “佛钵飘香” (Yam Basket) was one of the dishes created locally and there was a romance behind this dish which is mentioned in the short film."

- Eva Tang



LETTERS FROM THE MOTHERLAND ( 两地书简 ) BY HE SHUMING



Featuring actual correspondence between the filmmaker's father and the caretaker of his ancestral home on Hainan Island over the past 30 years, we take a glimpse into the life of a 65-year-old Hainan-born Singaporean retiree living in the bustling cityscape of Singapore, and the caretaker living in the tropical village of Qionghai, Hainan.  
"Growing up, I've always known my father's personal connection to Hainan, but never fully understood why. I remember he would write drafts of his letters before sending them. Years ago, he told me he wanted to publish a book of letters that he exchanged with his cousin, who's the caretaker of his childhood home. He typed them out, photocopied them and made a few copies. We revisited the letters when I started working on this film, and learned about the sacrifices both men made for their families. Seeing my father return to his village, and meeting the people he talked about in his letters, I understand clearer what family means to him.
Working on this, hearing it and understanding the nuances of it, it's really a beautiful dialect."
- He Shuming

KE ( 客 ) BY JUN CHONG

The story revolves around the initial fear and trepidation of an elderly lady in a relatively new environment. Alone and armed with only a name, she sets out to find her grandfather in Singapore’s only Hakka cemetery. Through the use of cinematic images and the poignant use of the Hakka dialect, we follow the journey of the protagonist in her desperate journey to find her family member before the cemetery gets relocated. This is Jun Chong's first film.
 
WU SONG SHA SAO ( 武松杀嫂 ) BY KIRSTEN TAN

The film is a reinterpretation of the classic and popular 15-minute Teochew Opera play ‘武 松杀嫂’. Restaged in a modern-day bar in Singapore, the story follows gangster Wu Song in his quest to seek revenge for his murdered brother, Wu Dalang. He soon discovers that his sister-in-law, a jaded dance hostess named Pan Jinlian, is involved in an adulterous affair with an influential rich man, Ximen Qing, and together, they plotted the death of Dalang.   
"I wanted to do a Teochew Opera inspired short but while researching, there was so little material available in English about the Teochew Opera form and that made it difficult to find a play to adapt. I found my actors before I had a story and they were the ones who suggested the play 'Wu Song Sha Sao'' (Wu Song Slays the Seductress) to me. It features Wu Song, the tiger slaying hero and Pan Jin Lian, his sister-in-law, who happens to be the most notorious femme fatale in classical Chinese literature. Even though the play dates back a few hundred years, I am impressed by its frank depiction of sexuality.

Apart from its narrative, I was also interested to create a self-reflexive work that interplays between the modern cinematic and the traditional chinese dramatic form. In attempting to stage the tension between updating a traditional art form and maintaining its authenticity, I introduced elements of internet art, a still amorphous medium to further highlight the disjuncture between the old and the new."
- Kirsten Tan

NOCTURNE ( 夜曲 ) BY LIAO JIEKAI

Ever since Jianxiong disappeared a few years ago, Meifeng had been trying to move on in life without her lover. A visit to his family on Chinese New Year’s Eve brought back familiarity and stirred up unexpected tensions. The film utilises elements of memory, politics and language to examine historical re-enactment in Cinema.

Special appearance by Boo Junfeng in this film.


Date: 25 May 2017

Time: 7pm 

Venue: Auditorium (Level 9 & Level 10, Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre) 
Duration: 75 mins
Language: Mandarin and some dialect, with English subtitles
Admission: $15 (15% concessions for group purchase of 10 tickets and more; 25% concessions for students, senior citizens, NSFs)

Tickets available from SISTIC 6348 5555 / www.sistic.com.sg


Written by Dawn Teo
For the full list of May 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.

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