First Takes Jan 2010 - Singapore Satire by Joshua Ng & Faridah Saad

An initial impression of ‘Singapore Satire’ may sound like this: If not for the juicy topic and the rich montage of film excerpts from local movies, this documentary might have been an equivalent of a video representation of a Wikipedia entry. It was too linear in its approach. Its only purpose seemed to be to inform. In fact, it seemed very fit for ChannelNewsAsia. I was proven wrong at the end because it did leave the audience with moments of surprise and even a question to think about. 

A rich montage of personalities and film excerpts made the film, just like how the still from 'Talking Cock' the movie made the still for this documentary film (to the extent of misleading me a little). The plethora of personalities spanned writers, humorists, professionals and researchers. To be cheeky, even the stranger who dug

 his nose while walking towards the camera stole a few moments. Through their perspectives, definitions and sometimes, strong stands on what is satire and what's the state of satire in Singapore, we get a good sense of the breadth of satire that can be seen in Singapore. I guess this showed how thorough the team was in getting the best people to be interviewed. I like what they mentioned during the Q & A: every rejection for an interview spurred them to find even bigger personalities. 

What's interesting is also that if I thought about how satire is defined in this documentary, then about 70% of Singapore films, plays, TV shows, skits are satirical in nature. Wang Sa Ye Fung skits were satires. Jack Neo films are satires. It is all around us. But surely not many people would think Singapore accommodates enough free speech. So where is the answer in this paradox? This was what I probably took home with me from this little film (the answer came from writer Kirpal Singh)......There are satires that penetr

ate and leave you slightly disturbed (like 'Singapore Gaga') and there are satires that just take the mickey out of situations but also finish with a happy ending (like the many stage plays we see). Between 'The Blue Mansion' by Glen Goei and 'Singapore Rebel' by Martyn See, there is a huge huge gap, even though both are satires.

Well done on a well-researched documentary! One sad thing to note though: it is noticeable that many well-researched docus have been made under school 'assessed modules'. Wonder if they will continue to make such painstaking efforts again after graduation...

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