Review - 'Homeground' by Jacen Tan

In 2005, filmmaker Jacen Tan made Singapore’s first viral short film perhaps even before the word ‘viral’ was a buzz word. Shot on digital camera, ‘Tak Giu’ which garnered about 100,000 views in 6 months was somewhat like a special interest (soccer) film that crossed audience groups owing to its plain-speaking humour, honest style and highly-relatable lingo. 10 years later, Jacen revisits the old turf of soccer (well, never really old) with a new short film titled ‘Homeground’. ‘Homeground’ is, on instant viewing, visually more polished, colour-graded to perfection, cinematographically refined by today’s conventions and so cleanly-scripted, it could pass off as a national campaign commercial. This is hardly surprising as it is supported (not sure if in sponsorship) by POSB’s neighbourhood loving campaign . Certainly, in recent times, the government and organisations have tried to own the space in film and short films for purposes of cultivating their respective messages, by sponsoring the works of certain ‘annointed’ filmmakers. 

Enjoy the cult-classic Tak Giu here:
Beyond the technical achievements, ‘Homeground’ falls a little short on being the sequel or a closure piece to ‘Tak Giu’. I am sure it is not meant to be a sequel for ‘Tak Giu’ was entertaining, comic fiction with the unmistakable heartland voice of a boys who can make any concrete corner a soccer playing field, while Homeground was a straight-laced documentary that sought the voices of a social cross-section of soccer enthusiasts, who were all very behaved in front of the camera. Almost too well-behaved. ‘Homeground’ does however, cover grounds (pardon the pun) similar to ‘Tak Giu’. ‘Tak Giu’ was a tongue-in-cheek plea to the government for more spaces for playing soccer, so that soccer fans (presumably a lot in Singapore), do to have a play a cat and mouse game with the neighourhood-patrolling policemen. Fast forward 10 years, ‘Homeground’ reveals a Singapore much more accommodating to soccer with seemingly more playing spaces, even for foreign workers. It documents a string of regular soccer games played at several venues in Singapore from Chinatown to Bukit Timah, from Serangoon to Seletar. Through interspersing these different stories with each other, ‘Homeground’ paints an informative cross-section of Singapore demographics. There are racial representations of each kind (even Ang Mohs), women, foreign workers and even seniors like the film’s anchor character, taxi-driver, Steven Wong (photo below). it is almost like a utopian world of soccer enthusiasts of every background who are all united by their love for soccer. 

While the film makes for highly-glossed TV infotainment, it sacrifices the bite of its predecessor ‘Tak Giu’. ’Take Giu’ is like the ‘Money No Enough’ of the soccer world, where 3 characters come together, trying to navigate their way through HDB spaces forbidden for games, and trying to find that golden field on the side of the road, literally. It succeeded in capturing the hearts of many online viewers, with the void-deck-style conversations of 3 buddies. ‘Homeground’, to cut Jacen some slack, is perhaps a film with a simpler ambition, basically to document the state of a hobby, a rather common one. Besides offering a fitting tribute to well-liked past-time, there are also elements in the film that offer something for non-soccer fans. Characters like the young girl who plays soccer at the foreign workers’ quarter with her father and of course, Steven Wong himself, who defies age (and his nagging wife) to pursue a passion, lift this film above infotainment status. You never go wrong with doing good portraits!

Review by Jeremy Sing

Enjoy 'Homeground' the full short film here:
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