'Very mean' people inspired Temasek Poly film student to write and direct award-winning story about deliveryman dad

Often on social media these days, we see heartwarming stories of strangers helping each other, but there are also those occasional facepalm moments when people commit rude acts.

Temasek Polytechnic second-year film student Clarice Lim perhaps experiences it a bit more personally because her father is a deliveryman.

In a recent virtual interview with AsiaOne, the 18-year-old said: "Every time my father comes home, he tells us the struggles he faced and the good things his customers did. Some are really nice and would prepare food for him.

'Small actions can make anyone feel a little sad'

"But during Covid-19 times and especially during the lockdown, people started being very mean to him, possibly because of the stress [from the pandemic].

"Some people would text him to say they are not at home and ask him to place the parcel outside. When he's leaving, they would spray disinfectant on the parcel, as if he's the one with the virus. I understand everyone is living in fear but sometimes these small actions can make anyone feel a little sad."

Her father would also be scolded if he knocked on the door a little louder on the second attempt.

When Clarice was tasked to script and direct a short film as part of her freshmen year schoolwork, she was inspired to tell her father's stories. She felt these are incidents that many delivery people experience.

She and her teammates Nur Syahirah Sulong, Zulhilmi Zahrin, Vince Teo, and Sophia Yeep, created the three-minute short film Knock, Knock! which was submitted to the recent season of ciNE65's Movie Makers Awards (MMA), a short film competition which consists of an open category and a student category. The theme this year is Stronger, Together.

ciNE65 is the largest national platform for film students and budding filmmakers to share short films about Singapore.

Apart from the MMA, this year's season also included three commissioned films, film-making workshops and seminars, and a film festival.

The season ended recently with a virtual award ceremony held on July 28 that was attended by Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower.

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Knock, Knock! took home the Best Film and the Best Cinematography awards in the Jury's Choice Awards, Student Category.

The dual wins came as a surprise to the students because they are novices in filmmaking, and for Clarice at least, it has reassured her that she's on the right path.

"When I was at the award ceremony, a lot of people told me Knock, Knock! really touched them. It was memorable to hear it because I never expected much, even though it's a story that I hold so close to my heart. I thought I would be the only one who can relate to it," Clarice said.

She added: "The awards assure me that I'm on the right path. I'm a rookie, this shows me I'm doing ok, and that I'm on the right path to what I want to do. It's also an encouragement to all my teammates. There was a lot of positive energy around after the award ceremony."

Striving towards authenticity

Another big winner at the MMA is the film Siti from the open category. Written and directed by Jun Chong with Shyan Tan as the Director of Photography, the touching film shows a woman named Joyce reminiscing with her late grandmother's domestic helper, Siti, while going through the old woman's belongings for the wake and cremation.

It won the Best Film, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography awards in the Jury's Choice Awards, Open Category.

Jun, 30, said the inspiration for the film came from Shyan's experience when his wife's grandmother died. Shyan saw the family's helper sitting in a corner in the toilet, and he was curious as to why the helper didn't pay her last respects, like what the relatives were doing.

Jun elaborated: "He asked her, 'Don't you want to say goodbye to Ah Ma?' For whatever reason, she felt that she wasn't qualified because she's a helper. Her response to him was, 'Oh, can I?' He was shocked and thought, 'Why can't you?'

"He invited her to go to Ah Ma and she did a simple action of putting her hand on her forehead. There was so much emotion being delivered in such a simple action."

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While Jun is no stranger to ciNE65 — he produced Royston Tan's 36 Ways to Say Good Morning and Alvin Lee's Pink IC, which were both commissioned films for previous seasons of ciNE65 — this is his first time participating in the MMA.

As a scriptwriter and director, he wants his productions to be authentic. "Authenticity has a few layers, the best kind of authenticity is when it's on a personal level and I put myself in it.

"We have shared experiences and memories, whether it's caring for the elderly or remembering our loved ones. It's very common and something everyone goes through. If you get it, you get it. That's something I strive towards."

He added the awards are a huge encouragement and recognition to him as a filmmaker, giving him greater courage to pursue the stories he wants to tell and the way it's told.

"I hope that also applies to other winners and nominees. When we are able to share our stories on a bigger platform like ciNE65, it gives us greater encouragement to tell our future stories."

As the winner of the top prize ciNE65 Movie Makers Award, Jun will also get the opportunity to be an understudy for a feature film produced by mm2 Entertainment. He said he's looking forward to gaining a deeper insight into the inner workings of filmmaking.

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When asked to provide advice to future ciNE65 participants, he said: "Be authentic and personal. It's very easy to adopt a third person perspective, to step out to look at the story you want to tell. But the more difficult thing is putting elements of yourself into the film and making yourself vulnerable when you make it and watch it. The audience will be able to see the heart and authenticity in it.

"I will definitely encourage others to join ciNE65. The greatest part of competitions like this is giving yourself the three-minute time limit to tell a story, and pitching yourself against your generation of filmmakers and seeing what they are able to come up with. When you watch their stories, you'll definitely improve on your own craft and skills. It's a very good opportunity to join ciNE65."

AsiaOne also spoke with Gary Goh, 42, one of the judges for the MMA and also the general manager of co-organiser mm2 Entertainment, who shared his hopes for future editions of ciNE65.

"Creativity is something that we need to expand our horizons on. Dealing with millennials, their understanding of creativity might be quite different, so I would encourage ourselves as the organisers to really expand the sandbox of the themes, so that we can encourage even more entries and have more entries from millennials."

You can watch the award-winning films in the playlist below.

Winners of the Jury's Choice Awards

Student Category

Best Film: Knock, Knock!

Best Cinematography: Knock, Knock!

Best Direction: Kejar

Best Editing: Whirling Gears

Best Screenplay: Kindness Express

Best Sound Design: The Will to Wheel

Best Art Direction: Little Miss Mischief

Open Category

Best Film: Siti

Best Cinematography: Siti

Best Direction: It Might Be Us Soon

Best Editing: Till We Meet Again

Best Screenplay: Siti

Best Sound Design: It Might Be Us Soon

Best Art Direction: It Might Be Us Soon

Special Mentions: Messenger, and When The Power Goes Out

Winners of the Audience Choice Awards

Favourite Film: Ala-Mask!

Favourite Actor: Nor Syazwan Bin Abdul Majid (Lead actor, Ala-mask!)

Favourite Actress: Nur Iffah Bte Roslan (Aunty, Ala-mask!)

Inter-School Challenge Trophy: Temasek Polytechnic

This article is brought to you in partnership with ciNE65.