Wednesday, October 18, 2006

[Cine.SG] Singapore Standard Time / Diminishing Memories

Singapore Standard Time Poster

"What is lost in the need for speed." - Joycelyn Khoo, director Singapore Standard Time

Perhaps that's what summed up the basic premise of the two movies presented in today's Cine.SG screening. Both documentaries, Singapore Standard Time is a short produced as a final year project at NTU, while Diminishing Memories is a medium length film by filmmaker Eng Yee Peng, depicting her memories of a bygone era, when farms and the kampung life was thriving at Lim Chu Kang, an area all too familiar now by army personnel.

As a short, Singapore Standard Time surprisingly contained many minute and seemingly disparate sequences focusing on different aspects of our modern day lives, like the obsession with 4D, a look at entrepreneurship, and a pretty stark commentary on our local arts scene. However, all these have a relation to time, and our attitudes of wanting things done yesterday. Running vis-a-vis throughout the short is the segment on our trees in this garden city, making comparisons that while our city can be engineered to be clean and green, civil society is much, much more difficult to social engineer.

It's a slick documentary short, and I'd say the awesome animated introduction is worth the price of the admission ticket. Real top notch stuff there. Containing many interviews with recognizable faces as well as strangers on the streets, this documentary took me by surprise with its silent, measured barbs.

On the flip side, Diminishing Memories was relatively serious, heartwarming, and extremely touching. Singapore isn't large, geographically speaking, but I'm certain each area in our island has its own distinct personality. And the personality of early Lim Chu Kang (LCK), and its transformation, is vividly captured by director Eng Yee Peng beautifully, as she experienced it herself while growing up. With interviews and countless anecdotes by family members, and of those who had lived in the village days of the past, this documentary offered us a memorable trip down memory lane as to how fast things in our society have progressed, and how the kampung lifestyle could very much be envied by city dwellers - the slower pace of life, the genuine neighbourliness, the living of life instead of the rat race.

Lim Chu Kang VS Choa Chu Kang VS Yio Chu Kang

Complete with family photos, stills, animation, and even an old 16mm movie clip, it is without a doubt that you can feel that this is a very personal film, and yet be touched by the sincerity of Yee Peng's passion for LCK. Recounting childhood (diminishing) memories, we see how urbanization and relocation (without much choice) have an effect on the kampung folks, and how they adapt, successfully or otherwise, to change.

I believe this documentary has done wonders for LCK, and for a new generation of Singaporeans who have never experienced first hand the village lifestyle, or cannot imagine that Singapore once had villages on the mainland, a new medium apart from textbooks and archived photographs is now here, in the form of this film, to see and hear the experience of those who have lived in the bygone era, and their reminiscence of life as it used to be.

I think Singapore made documentaries about Singapore are rare, and Diminishing Memories is a valued film that deserves a place in our film archives for its preservation of lives that once were, of a lifestyle now almost forgotten.

You can read more about Diminishing Memories here, or read the transcript of the entire movie here.

The filmmakers were in attendance for a short Q&A session after the screening.

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