Sunday, April 15, 2007

[SIFF] Match Made

Family Ties

Occasionally, you see media reports in the local papers highlighting the increase in the number of foreign brides (and grooms) in Singapore, with the majority from the Indochina region. Mirabelle Ang's documentary Match Made is based on a Singapore man's search for a Vietnamese bride, and begins in thick of the action in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

In 48 minutes, we accompany Ricky, a furniture salesman in his late 30s, who through a local matchmaking agency set up by a Taiwanese, goes in search for a bride. Filmmed in 2004, Mirabelle covers the spectrum of the process, from engaging the agency, to the introduction of a host of possible candidates in a selection process held in a hotel room, the initial fleeting discussions through an interpreter, the marriage, where you get to witness first hand a Vietnamese wedding ceremony and the customary lunch/dinner, as well as a visit to the bride's farming village.

Match Made offered a singular viewpoint from the perspective of a bride hunter, and I thought she captured quite well, the unsettling nature of choosing one's bride from a buffet train. To date I still cannot fathom how anyone can choose someone to spend one's life with like that, akin to a flesh parade, and how with methodical, clinical, business-like demeanour, everything gets settled in less than 4 days, including the marriage itself, the meeting of the in-laws etc. It's all for the money probably, as what the amount that the family finally gets, offered some elevation from dire straits for a while.

The documentary does ask the usual questions, like why the girls are willing to participate in such a matchmaking deal, with the usual answers dissing the local men, to good stories heard about Singaporean men, and the hope of living abroad in comfort. It does ask certain probing questions to the matchmakers - the agency as well as their local agents, in trying to find out more about the selection and shortlist process, and while the answers are forthcoming, you do feel a sense that there is more than meets the eye.

And certainly in the way the documentary was shot, there were a lot more depth that could have been explored, but somehow the filmmakers didn't manage to follow through completely. The ending felt quite rushed, especially in the interview back in Singapore - the audience just gets a few cursory responses from the interviewee, and nothing else. Perhaps it is the nature of privacy, that the ending, wrapped up in inter-titles, tells of a lot more pain behind the scenes that the subjects do not wish to be further interviewed on camera?

One can only speculate. However, Match Made has done its fair share of demystifying the machinery behind these matches made in foreign lands. An interesting revelatory documentary that despite its flaws, will still manage to garner your undivided attention.

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