Monday, September 10, 2007

[7th Asian Film Symposium] Osanpo (Strolling Along) / Remember Chek Jawa

Tonight marks the closing of the 7th Asian Film Symposium, after the past 4 days of short and feature film screenings, and a Forum on the Asian Film Festival circuit. And closing the symposium are two films, one Japanese docu-drama, while the other is a local documentary on Chek Jawa, which I thought aptly closed the Symposium on a strong note, with strangers coming together, forming friendships, pooling resources and tackling a common cause, mirroring the Symposium's platform for the meeting of the minds.

Director Eric Lim of Remember Chek Jawa was present with his crew and subject interviewees for a Q&A Session after the screening. Below are some of the nuggets of information shared during the session:

  • This screening is the 4th public screening of Chek Jawa.

  • He had spent about 3 months since December last year to put the movie together, with the help of Online Editor Gek Lisan.

  • The footage that we see of the effort is mostly shot in Aug 2001

  • Some of the wildlife stuff were filmed on and off between 2002 to 2004.

  • The DVD is expected to be out at the end of the year, and is to be distributed by Objectifs.

  • Those who wish to request for screenings can click on this link.

  • It will be travelling the film festival circuit starting with "Planet in Focus" International Environmental Film & Video Festival come 24-28 Oct 07.

  • But of course Eric feels that he would prefer more locals to watch this documentary, which I agree, since it's something that's directly relevant to us.
  • Besides his much needed vacation, Eric has also finished filming his next project, which is a documentary on a Chinese opera family living at Pulau Ubin, and editing should be completed by mid 2008.

Besides Eric, one of the key players in Remembering Chek Jawa, botanist Joseph Lai, was also on hand to share a few words. Joseph was a key player in noticing the treasure trove and galvanizing like-minded volunteers to save the habitat. His current project is to save some patches of forest, which is home to a number of animals and rare species, at Sentosa, which will be directly impacted with the building of the Integrated Resort. You can read up more of Joseph's works at Eart-Heart, and contact him too if you're interested in outreach and nature walks programmes. There are plenty of links, pictures and information for nature buffs and amateurs alike who want to have a jumpstart into the interesting locations that you thought couldn't exist in our concrete jungle. Joseph made a poignant point before he ended though, and that's a reminder that the treasures of nature that we have here, is ours, and nobody else can take care of them other than ourselves.


Osanpo reminds me of Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. You have a couple strolling along (that's the English title by the way) the streets bantering with each other, only that Osanpo has limited the scope to the present and the now, rather than opening the conversation up to everything under the sun.

It's a keen observation about contemporary love, told through a pseudo-documentary style, which I thought was quite sly in bringing out the issues behind courtship. You feel for everyone's concern about whether they've said or done the right thing, the perceptions that they have of each other's body language, and their hopes and dreams of what would come about from a few weeks old relationship. Which I thought was quite true, as we present ourselves in a certain manner, while inside, we hide our insecurities, and together with it, our desires.

Not everything always will turn out smooth sailing, and what elevates Osanpo is in its documentary talking heads style which highlights what each person truly meant behind their words and action, and while they might come as a shock - demonstrating our ability to deceive, to play coy, to lead on (sometimes unintentionally) - you're more likely to nod your head in agreement, either coming from personal experience, or from something observed or discussed before with friends.

If there's any need to have a movie as a reference for modern love, then perhaps Osanpo might just be it - dealing with the idealistic notions when people fall in love, and a large dose of a reality check to it all.


Do you know Chek Jawa? Neither did I, before I watched this documentary by Eric Lim. This year alone had seen a bumper crop of local documentarians putting out their latest works, with Tan Pin Pin's Invisible City, Lee Yanfeng and Hanafi Ramdan's The Kallang Wave, Jasmin Ng's Pink Paddlers, F by Chew Tze Chuan, Match Made by Mirabelle Ang, Ng Khee Jin's Feet Unbound, James Leong and Lynn Lee's Aki Ra's Boys (and Homeless FC released in Hong Kong), and Eng Yee Peng's double bill on Diminishing Memories expected to be released soon.

Somehow I've always taken an affinity to local documentaries, for the fact that there's always something special to tell about our country from a unique perspective of the filmmaker's lens, something that was unseen delivered and made known. Important documentaries that tell the story of what was once, like Pin Pin's Invisible City, and Yee Peng's Diminishing Memories. I'm no nature buff, and I'd admit I was a bit apprehensive whether the content of Chek Jawa could appeal to me.

It certainly did, and I'd expect it to appeal to a mass audience as well, not necessarily just the nature buffs or conservationists, because it deals with the can-do human spirit, demonstrating that when we come together with a common cause, we can indeed make a difference, in spite of not being funded to do something, but doing it with passion, for a greater passion. It's inspiring to see so much achieved by a group of volunteers, who readily admit they actually had no clue whether what they're doing is right in scientific methodology, but their goal of preserving an extraordinary piece of land at Pulau Ubin, which is home to 6 eco-systems no less, takes precedence.

And the amount of wildlife shots is astounding as they are stunning - I have absolutely no idea about the wealth of bio-diversity in just Chek Jawa alone. The filmmakers and the volunteers deserve a salute in their successful effort to put off a reclamation project on that very same piece of land, in a bit to save the wildlife for future generations to appreciate. What they have achieved was to present in concrete terms, the case for preserving the wildlife, and I'm glad that their hard effort paid off, that is, until the year 2012. Whether or not Chek Jawa will go then, will depend very much on how we treasure, and continue to voice our concerns over any possible land re-use. But of course, the powers that be have the final say, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to persuade logically, and with good reason.

Watching children go ga-ga over the interaction with the wildlife, and having it become a live teaching grounds for relevant studies and research, do seem like valid reasons. Nothing beats holding something in your hands, versus a textbook diagram or a specimen behind a plexiglass in a museum. And what more, to anyone who says that Singapore is a boring place with the expansion of its concrete jungle, well, I'd advise him or her to go take a trip to our nature reserves. If anything, Remembering Chek Jawa has taught me two things. One, Nature is worth preserving, and second, never underestimate the power of the human spirit, especially when it gels together, working for a cause. As they say, unity is strength.

Remember Chek Jawa epitomizes that spirit, and has, in my opinion, sealed an important place in Singapore's limited, but growing, filmography. Eric Lim has presented the documentary in easy digestible chunks, deftly handling the talking head interviews with footage of preparation and the actual project itself, highlighting all the anecdotes and challenges, reminding that it is no doubt a difficult task at hand, but one that resulted in a little sweet victory in many sense, and especially to raise awareness to Chek Jawa for audiences who have seen this film.

Stay tuned until the end of the credits for a coda. And I hope to pay a visit to Chek Jawa soon, if anyone wants to join me, send me an email or comment! I'll probably put up some pictures of the place when I do.

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