Hooray, Hosaywood!

By Joy Fang

His may not be a household name, but home- grown film-maker Jacen Tan is definitely worth taking note of.

The 28-year-old made a splash in 2004 with his first film, Tak Giu (or Kick Ball, in Hokkien).

That film went viral long before the term "YouTube- ing" was coined.

Tan's second film, Zo Peng (Go Army), went on to win second place at the Panasonic MDA Digital Film Fiesta in 2005. And his third, Zo Gang (Go Work), was screened as part of events in places like Berlin and Budapest.

The beauty of Tan's films is that they are unabashedly Singapore-centric. The film-maker is unafraid to present social commentary as tongue-in- cheek sketches and his films have been hailed as engaging, relatable and spot-on.

So, it is high time that Tan - who also works as a videographer and a video editor at Razor TV - rolled out a DVD of all his five short films.

Realeased earlier this month, its cheeky title, Hosaywood, stems from the Hokkien term "hosay", which means "great" or "fantastic".

Tan's films are usually posted on YouTube for free, but the DVD contains gems, such as bloopers and out-takes from every film. These enjoyable clips give insights into how shooting even a simple scene is not as easy as it looks.

You'll also get to hear from Tan himself in his director's notes section, and in a special clip where he interviews himself.

my paper takes a quick look at all the short films. And, by the way, the conclusion we have for the DVD as a whole is: Hosay, ah!


Tan's first film - a 15-minute clip made in 2004 about a trio who meet obstacles while trying to find a soccer field to train in - is decidedly raw.

Shot with a hand-held video camera that was placed on the ground or left on a tripod and with all four actors doubling as crew members, the scenes are one-dimensional and come across as a tad amateurish.

But the film draws you in, thanks to its frank and earnest look at the concerns of Singaporeans on the ground.

In this case, they're griping about the lack of a soccer pitch. It seems like a small problem but, with it, Tan manages to highlight issues like the nation's inability to progress in the international sporting arena.


This 15-minute offering from 2005 is rather serious and quite a deviation from Tan's other works. It tells of the trials of national service, but with an intriguing twist: It is set in an alternate reality where women are the ones who serve while the men go on to pursue their studies. Cue to scenes of women squatting on a rooftop (which might just be the one at the Singapore Press Holdings News Centre) and spouting vulgarities and army lingo. This may be a no-frills film, but its dialogue is spot-on and it provides an interesting look into how national servicemen feel - and what women are missing out on.


Arguably my favourite of the lot, this nine-minute film from 2006 is chock-full of laugh- out-loud moments.

It starts off with a wry warning that it "is a Singaporean film with no budget and no stars" - a pointed remark about the Singaporean misconception that big budgets equal good quality.

The light-hearted short follows the mundane life of a budding film-maker, Merlion Tan, who is seemingly down-and- out. He walks along the street while complaining about the film industry here.

The monologue is interspersed with cuts to exaggerated scenes that cement his point. Spot local singers from indie bands, such as Patrick Chng from the Oddfellows and Linda Ong from Lunarin, in the clip.


The sequel to Zo Gang, this short released in 2007 follows the same character, Merlion Tan, as he sets about filming his first low-budget film.

Though not as funny as its predecessor, the short still manages to offer a bundle of laughs while paying tribute to film- makers here.


This latest film offering, released this year, is a documentary, so no laughs here.

But it does give sentimental Singaporeans a last look at the iconic National Stadium, which was torn down between October last year and February this year to make way for the Sports Hub.

The clip shows scenes of the exuberant crowd at the first leg of the 2007 Asean Football Championship Final, in which Singapore played against Thailand.

There isn't any narration, but the shots convincingly capture the spirit of football, along with a generous dose of nostalgia.

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