Local director Wee Li Lin borrows inspiration from her youth for her new films

MEMORIES: Director Wee Li Lin with a collection of autograph books — some of them her own— that were used as props in My Autograph Book.

As a shy schoolgirl in 1980s Singapore, Wee Li Lin longed to be part of the cool clique known as the Centrepoint Kids who hung out at the Orchard Road shopping centre.

"I was always fascinated with them... they had an outrageous sense of style, and were so enigmatic and mysterious," the local film-maker and former Singapore Chinese Girls' School student said.

"People saw them as delinquents, misfits and punks, but I admired them and secretly wished I could be part of them."

At 41, Wee is finally realising her dream with her new short film Centrepoint Kidz.

Showcased at the National Library's Singapore Memory Project Rewind/Remind film festival, it tells the story of gawky teen Meishi, who overcomes her shyness and joins the Centrepoint Kids.

"Meishi is me," Wee admitted.

"I didn't have the chance to befriend the Centrepoint Kids; I wasn't cool or gutsy enough. So now I get to live out my fantasy through the film, and hang out with (the) actors playing them instead!"

Wee describes the Centrepoint Kids' fashion sense as "wacky and crazy", and the cast's wardrobe was, quite literally, larger than life.

"My favourite outfit was worn by the leader of the gang," said Wee.

"We dressed him in a ridiculously oversized shirt - it was so large it came up to his knees. We had to tailor it to fit, because even the XXL-sized shirts in Mustafa Centre weren't big enough!"

Wee hopes to dispel the negative image of the Centrepoint Kids through her film.

"In my research, a lot of former Centrepoint Kids were unwilling to come forward and share their story.

"History hasn't painted them kindly. When browsing through newspaper archives, most articles were about the Centrepoint Kids loitering, shoplifting and glue-sniffing.

"Finally, one girl talked to me. She told me about the fun elements of the group, such as their breakdancing competitions in the parking lot. She was popular and part of the clique, but also a school prefect, so it's a myth that they were all bad hats."

Wee's other nostalgic companion piece screened at Rewind/Remind is My Autograph Book, a semi-autobiographical tale that expands on her 2003 short film Autograph Book.

In My Autograph Book, middle-aged protagonist Wen (played by Neo Swee Lin) reminisces about a primary school friend she has lost touch with, while browsing through her old autograph book scribbled with messages from childhood friends.

"Autograph Book did well as a short film, and was inspired by a friendship I lost in 2003," said Wee.

"When I lost (touch with) another close friend recently, it prompted me to write and direct My Autograph Book as a longer film that delved deeper into relationship dynamics."

My Autograph Book builds on Wee's bond with her best friend Sharon, whom she met in Primary 5 and remains close to.

"We met because she asked me to buy chicken wings for her in the canteen - she wanted to buy 10 and was embarrassed, so she sought my help," Wee recalled with a chuckle.

"That story is in the film as well."


Wee still keeps her personal autograph book collection from her school days, along with the props from both films.

The covers are adorned with cartoon characters like Strawberry Shortcake and Garfield, and contain stickers, friendship quizzes, illustrations and poems.

"The best autograph book entries are the ones that don't make sense. There's this poem that goes, 'Kick your table, kick your chair/ Kick your boyfriend, Go away.' It's so ridiculous, I love it!"

Though the autograph book died out with the advent of social media, it will always have a special place in Wee's heart.

"A Facebook page is so public, and open for all your friends to see. But an autograph book is so private and personal: It really is just for you."


Rewind/ Remind Film Festival - Screening of Royston Tan's Old Friends and Screening & Talk for Wee Li Lin's Centrepoint Kidz and My Autograph Book

May 31, 2pm

Imagine in library@orchard

Register for free and browse other screening times at www.nlb.gov.sg

This article was first published on May 27, 2015.
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