Deeply moved by Letters

The first screening of the anthology by seven directors left many in the audiences teary-eyed

There was plenty of laughter and a fair bit of tears at last Saturday's first screening of the SG50 film project, 7 Letters, at the National Museum of Singapore.

All 200 and over seats were filled at its Gallery Theatre for the 11am screening of the anthology, made up of seven "love letters" to Singapore by seven acclaimed local film-makers - Boo Junfeng, Eric Khoo, K. Rajagopal, Jack Neo, Tan Pin Pin, Royston Tan and Kelvin Tong.

Before the two-hour-long screening, Royston Tan and Boo - the only directors present - thanked the audiences for their support. Tan said: "There may not be a lot of big stars in the films, but there's a lot of heart from each of the film-makers and we hope this heart and love can be felt by you."

Each short film tells a story about the lives of Singaporeans, past and present, as seen through the eyes of the film-maker.

A clear favourite with the audiences, mostly made up of young adults, was Tong's film, Grandma Positioning System (GPS). It is a touching story about a trip made by a three-generation family to the family cemetery in Johor.

Everybody cannot wait to go back to Singapore to attend to their various appointments except for the grandmother who takes the time to chat with her deceased husband about fast-changing Singapore. A subsequent visit reveals the impact she had on her young grandson.

The short film ended the anthology and left many in the audiences teary-eyed.

University student Gabriel Tang, 24, said it was a story he could relate to. "My parents used to encourage me to 'chat' with my late grandmother when we paid respects to her at the crematorium during Qing Ming."

However, he stopped going to the crematorium when he grew older. He said: "But after watching GPS, I feel I want to join them again during Qing Ming next year to pay respects. It's probably the only form of connection I have with her left."

Polytechnic student Farah Roslee, 18, who was there with two of her classmates, said she enjoyed Royston Tan's Bunga Sayang most. It is a tale of neighbourliness between a Chinese boy and his neighbour, a Malay kueh-making grandmother.

She said: "It was very cute seeing the Chinese boy, who speaks little Malay, trying to communicate with the grandmother."

The screening was the first of six free screenings held at the museum over the National Day long weekend. After a successful gala premiere at the Capitol Theatre that ran for three days last month, the National Museum came forward to host six additional screenings.

Tickets were given out on a first-come, first-served basis and more than 1,200 tickets were snapped up within three hours. The films were fully funded by the Media Development Authority and the Singapore Film Commission.

While tickets are free for the screenings at the museum, audiences are encouraged to make donations. Many were seen doing so after the screening.

The money will go towards seven charities picked by the directors, including Alzheimer's Disease Association and the Children-At-Risk Empowerment Association.

7 Letters will get a limited run at seven Golden Village cinemas later this month. Tickets are now on sale at the Golden Village website. Describing last Saturday's audience response as "amazing", director Tan said: "After the screening, people were coming up to me and sharing their personal stories of how different parts of their lives relate to the film.

"It showed that the film really resonated with them."

This article was first published on August 10, 2015.
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