Local films that celebrate differences

Cultural clashes are par for the course in a globalised world, but three local directors hope their films will show how differences can be celebrated.

Together Apart, which features short films by K. Rajagopal, Sanif Olek and Kelvin Tong on cultural diversity, premiered at Shaw Lido on Tuesday night.

The film is available online at lapis-sagu.sg. It is Singapore's first crowdsourced film anthology, born out of an initiative by the Ministry of Communications and Information.

All three films in the anthology are based on winning ideas submitted by the public in last year's Lapis Sagu Film Contest, which attracted more than 1,200 submissions.

Director Sanif's The Manifest was inspired by an idea from national serviceman Thomas Goh.

It is is set in a fictional Singapore Space Agency spaceship centuries in the future, when two engineers of Eurasian and Indian descent argue about the place of foreigners in Singapore.

Mr Sanif said: "These issues will persist in the future because people are moving all the time. We will always be facing that sort of cultural clash. We just have to listen to one another and celebrate our differences.

"I won't admit that the film will be a problem solver, but once you have a discussion, minds will open up."

Mr Rajagopal, whose short film Sanjay follows an Indian couple's move to Singapore and the challenges they face, said weaving the message of social acceptance into the film was important to him.

He said: "I view it as something necessary in Singapore, as the film can reach broad audiences to create awareness of this message. I don't view it as propaganda."

Another of his films, A Yellow Bird, debuted at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last year.

Director Tong's B.M.T. (Beijing, Mumbai, Tampines), a play on the acronym for basic military training, follows national service recruits of local Indian and Chinese origins who clash during training, but have phone conversations with their mothers at the end of the day, revealing their similarities.

Mr Tong told TNP: "Ours is an immigrant society. To even think for a moment that there is such a thing as 'we are local-local versus foreigners' - I think you're off your rockers, because my ah ma came from China!

We are only first or second generation. So that doesn't account for 'this is us and they are them'. Social integration is a very important part of us."

Director Eric Khoo originally contributed to this anthology, but his film, which depicted foreigners as zombies, was cut after it was deemed potentially offensive if taken out of context.

This article was first published on April 6, 2017.
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