STOP10 Nov 2017: 'Old of Things' by Heather Teo and Victor Gan

In 2016, the residents of the Dakota Crescent estate received notice of eviction in lieu of redevelopment. The film grants exclusive access into the life of Yee Geok Eng, a resident in her late 60s, as she navigates the different phases of redefining everything she understands as home; the search for security, comfort, and family amidst an upheaval of life as she knows it.

This film is a personal memento, but also a monument to all the spaces of memory that have quietly become forgotten histories. Old of Things by Heather Teo and Victor Gan recently won the Top Prize in the Open Category in the Singapore Heritage Short Film Competition (HSFC) organized by the Singapore Film Society (SFS) with support from National Heritage Board.

The film was able to present a very heartfelt and personal insight into a very difficult subject without any sense of over sentimentality. The film reminds us all of how important film can be as an archival medium in documenting not only important memories but also historical context and nuances. Through Ms Yee's move, we gain an insight into the impact of change, the passing of time, the importance of memories but also the hopefulness in moving onwards. 

Here is our interview with Heather and Victor

With the highly relevant subject matter of the film, was there a message or feeling or memory that you wish to convey with the film?

H: For me, the story essentially began in a place of feeling and memory. When I first took a camera to the Dakota Crescent house, I was shooting stills without any real agenda beyond preserving the memory of a place that I grew up with, and that I felt sad about losing. It soon became apparent that each photo pointed towards a poignant story to be told, and that led to the idea of a continuous narrative through film. Now that the story is gaining reach to a wider audience, what we hope people see in it is the precious beauty in the old of things, and reconsider the things we regard as valuable to preserve. This ranges from the beauty of cracks tearing through old paint, to the etches of time in the wrinkles of an elderly face. 

V: I embarked on this project with no clear intent to convey a particular message or feeling. Instead, I wanted to let the story write itself as we documented the process. It was only during the editing process when we reviewed the numerous hours of footage that we realised that the subject was probably going through a lot of feelings internally as she was being evicted out of a place that she spent the majority of her life in. Hopefully, this film can show how policy changes affect a citizen's life.

Was there a particular memorable memory of the filming process? particularly as you followed the subject through the move.

H: My Aunt was a real dream of a subject, always obliging and never making any requests of us, save for one occasion.  One weekend, as we were wrapping up the shoot for the day (we filmed every weekend for about 4 months), she asked if we would take some photographs of her around the estate. Of course, we were more than happy to, but it was a moment that made my heart ache; it was a rare time she expressed sentiment about moving, and if not for the project, she would not have had anyone to take those photographs for her. 

V: Out of the many weekend afternoons spent with Heather's aunt, a particular memory that stood out for me was actually during the night before the moving out. We had a simple meal at her place with her and her sister (Heather's mother). In the film, she mentioned that she was "gan cheong" about moving out and didn't think she would be able to sleep. It really gave me an insight into her feelings behind the passive facade that she put up most of the time.

Did the film affect you as a film maker in any way?

H: This was my first every foray into film (I'm primarily a photographer), and the process has changed me so much. I've learnt to develop an eye for moving images, and it has been my privilege to learn from such a talented filmmaker as Victor. On a whole, the project has given me a new perspective to my aunt's life, a life that I've always existed in parallel with but never really intersected. As much as I was telling a story through making the film, her story was revealing itself to me through the process, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to create a precious memory of Dakota Crescent for her, for me, and for all the others who called the estate home.

V: As a filmmaker, I have always been interested in stories of the common man. Hence I was extremely excited when Heather approached me for this project. As my previous films have always been narratives, I am used to directing actors and having everything planned out. This process of documentation opens me up to other possibilities and a more fluid style of filmmaking. Hopefully, in my next film (which will be a narrative again!) I will be able to loosen up and allow some of the magic to happen by itself!

Old of Things will be screened as part of the Singapore Heritage Short Film Competition Travelling Showcase. This year's travelling showcase comprises of 8 short films that make up this year's winners and finalists. They include:

Nautical Miles (PG) by Lighthouse Pictures

Set A: The Singaporean Breakfast (G) by S.M.J Productions

Old of Things (PG) by Honest Visuals

Getting Tough 纸扎止扎 (PG) by 小火 PorDuckSions

Apache Over Singapore (PG) by The60sApaches

The Last Line (PG) by SNP Collective

The Nine Emperor Gods (PG) by Broadcast Media Team 2

One Track Mind (G) by On The Rocks Productions

There will be a post-screening Q&A with the filmmakers of one of the films. The films are in multiple languages, and subtitled in English.
Free admission to general public, all are welcome!
For more info about the competition, please check out:

There are two more upcoming Travelling Showcases in November. Here are the details:

Fri 17 Nov, 7pm – 8.30pm

Goodman Arts Centre
Sat, 25 Nov, 4pm – 10pm*
*Screening on loop
Visit HSFC’s FB page for the latest updates on the release of tickets.

Pictures and stills courtesy of Heather Teo and Victor Gan

Interview by Ivan Choong

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

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