Too many eggs in one basket?

Too many eggs in one basket?

How come Singapore doesn't have a national film centre?

Britain has the British Film Institute (BFI). The United States, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and India all have their own too.

These centres do research, archive or fund new projects related to films. They train people and promote films by local artists, domestically or for export. They hold festivals and regular screenings of works shunned by commercial cinema.

In Singapore, these functions are carried out by a disparate group of private and public bodies - quite a lot of it ad hoc - with the frustrations, inefficiencies and skill mismatches that you would expect with silos.

For some years now, a group of film-makers and other art activists have wanted to kick-start a central point of coordination between these silos. Then, after a decade or so, they hope a full-fledged film institute will emerge from it.

Two weeks ago, the topic came up in Parliament. Nominated MP Janice Koh, an actress, argued that a national film centre would "take Singapore cinema to the next stage of growth".

The Singapore Film Commission (SFC) is mostly a grant-giving body, "inadequately staffed to do little more than perform an administrative role", she said.

"We need an independent institute that not only commissions films but also curates, educates, provides scholarship and research, and promotes our films locally and internationally. It could be modelled after the British Film Institute in London, the Cinematheque Francais in Paris or the Film Society Lincoln Centre in New York".

Articulating the views of the pro-national film institute group, she said a new centre can develop the film industry in Singapore "holistically". It can work with the SFC to nurture new works and new voices. It can partner with the National Archives to develop research in film heritage and spread Singapore cinema abroad by working with embassies.

Mr Lawrence Wong, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Minister of State (Communications and Information), responded to the call.

He said that there is now a focus on strengthening existing structures, "and I think that's a more important priority than to get bogged (down) with organisational structures and how to organise".

Nothing in his reply ruled out the idea of a film centre, however.

The optimistic interpretation, one shared by the film-makers I spoke to (as well as to Ms Koh) for this article, is that strengthening the pieces might be a prelude to the Government gathering them into a whole.

On the face of it, who could argue against the creation of a national film centre? It makes sense, in the same way that all organisational consolidations make sense.

It would be churlish to argue against more efficiency, better film education for the public, better archiving of cultural treasures, less confusion and fragmentation in film funding, more viewing choices for filmgoers when the cinemas are inundated with Hollywood fodder.

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