A 10-part mini-series by three young Singaporeans seeks to preserve the legacy of a bygone generation.
Contributed By Yong Yung Shin
Have you ever walked past one of those old-school bakeries and wondered about the lives of the people in its kitchens, toiling to produce loaf after loaf of soft white bread every day? Unseen/Unsaid, a 10-part online webisode which seeks to preserve the fragments of Singapore’s past that is rapidly being replaced by new developments, captures the life vicissitudes that transpires behind its walls, and more.
Behind this production are 24-year-olds Derek Foo, Lim Song Lip and Jeremy Tan, and 22-year-old Elizabeth Lee, all third year students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at the Nanyang Technological University. Calling themselves the RediscoverSG crew, they were interning at the web design and development agency Dice Studio where the idea of Unseen/Unsaid was first mooted by its founder, Claudia Lim.
Sponsored and supported by Dice Studio LLP and the National Heritage Board, Unseen/Unsaid is striking in its concept. Instead of the conventional documentary format, the mini episodes, each averaging three minutes in length, showcases landscapes and fast diminishing trades through the narratives of everyday Singaporeans and their emotions, yearnings and aspirations.
Episode 1: Bread & Butter, for example, tells with surprising poeticism and poignancy the sacrifice of a father who gives up his dreams and takes on the monotony of daily sloughing at a bakery to support his family; his narrative parallels the day-to-day operations of a traditional bakery, a diminishing sight in Singapore. Another episode on the KTM train station, Episode 3: Here, Temporarily, gives voice to migrant workers who search for identity in a land that is so foreign yet instrumental to their livelihood.
Yet another focuses on the ubiquity of HDB flats, personified through the narrative of a housewife. “Within its walls, these flats hold the stories, hopes and dreams of many. They are just like your every day, under-appreciated housewives—someone so intimately close to our daily lives, yet someone whom we tend to take for granted,” reads the episode summary.
Says Tan, “We didn’t want to do a documentary or spin a complex narrative. Instead, we asked ourselves how we could tell the same story that many filmmakers and photographers have told before, but from a fresh perspective.”
“We want this series to be a reminder to our generation, to not assume that everything we know to be part of our Singapore today will necessarily still be there tomorrow. As such, we should appreciate our home as we know it to be now. It’s also a nice walk down memory lane for those older than us, and maybe a possible future history lesson for the generations to come,” adds Lee.
One of the most surprising things the young crew discovered was the willingness of their subjects to open up to them. “We tend to stereotype Singaporeans as closed up and unwilling to talk, but it wasn’t so when we approached the uncles and aunties and took the time to communicate with them. In fact, they were most open to sharing their stories,” says Foo.
The project received approval for funding from the National Heritage Board’s Heritage Industry Incentive Programme in March for the project, making them the youngest group to receive the grant from Hi2P since it launched in 2008. The S$75,000 funding from Hi2P to partially produce and promote the series helped to generate more buzz and publicity.
“Before the grant was awarded, the plan was to produce the videos and publish them online without any publicity or activity, with the hope of it taking off and reaching as many viewers as possible organically,” explains Claudia Lim, founder of Dice Studio. The provision of the grant thus allowed for the procurement of better equipment, leading to higher video production standards in both filming and post-production. “The funding is also helping us to reach a bigger audience within and outside of Singapore. That’s one main reason why we produced this series—to touch as many hearts and minds as possible,” says Lim.
The RediscoverSG team has also produced a series of paper toys related to the series, retailing at S$20 for a set of five toys. The team aims to raise S$10,000 for the charity organization, MILK (Mainly I Love Kids), to help disadvantaged children and youths in Singapore.
Log on to www.rediscover.sg to watch the full webisodes of Unseen/Unsaid as well as to find out more on how to purchase the Unseen/Unsaid paper toys.