A National Day documentary pays tribute to the special pockets of space around Singapore.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF CAROL LEE|
Produced by local filmmaker Royston Tan, Old Places is a National Day docu-feature which captures the verbal recounts of Singapore’s “old places” that have certain significance and memories for the nation. Coupled with reenactments, the audio narratives tell stories of personal journeys, of joy and love.
These special places include street barbers plying their craft in the back alleys of Chinatown, traditional confectionary shops and pre-Independence Day coffee shops. Melding personal experience with physical space, Old Places is “an ode to the memories of the fast disappearing places which Singaporeans hold dear to their hearts, and which forms the Singapore identity.” Old Places is directed by Tan, Eva Teng and Victric Thng.
Tan, who has garnered an impressive string of accolades under his belt ever since his breakout film 15 won several awards in the international arena, is known for portraying the human condition with stark sensitivity. He is one of the frontrunners of Singapore’s emerging arts scene, having been recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the “Top 20 Asian Heroes” for his envelope-pushing work. With 2007’s 881 and 2008’s 12 Lotus, he has made a successful leap into the mainstream market, becoming a household name.
City News chats with Tan about the motivation behind the docu-feature and his own favorite “old place.”
What inspired the documentary?
I feel it is important to create an archive of memories people have about the places that are close to their hearts. After all, it’s the memories that make a certain place home for a person.
What can viewers get out of it?
I would like them to recall their own “places” and make the connection to their own memories, even if it is just of their childhood as they made their way to school every morning.
I also want to bridge the gap between two generations by showing how life was in the past, by presenting history in a very non-textbook way.
How did the interviewees impact you?
I was struck by the strong love they have for their country, for as much as we Singaporeans want progress, we’re also reluctant to see the places that we’ve grown up in disappear. There is so much genuineness in them when they share about their memories, without having to over-dramatize anything at all.
What is your favorite “old place”?
That would have to be the kopitiams I used to hang out at when I was really young, about 5 years old—sadly, many of them are no longer around. I loved the organized mess, the genuineness of it all.
Tell us about your childhood.
Growing up as a kampung kid, I remember that everyone was friendly; we never had to lock our doors. Nowadays we wake up to the smell of pollution, back then we awoke to the smell of soil and we walked about with the grass under our feet, in constant touch with nature. When we climbed trees, fell down and injured ourselves, we knew where to pick wild herbs to treat our scrapes. I wanted to capture on film the sentiment these memories evoke to show that life can actually be so simple and beautiful.
Old Places, will premiere on Okto channel on Sunday, August 8, 10 p.m.