Singapore Cinema

While I did not attempt this question during the Asian Film History exam last week, I felt I had some thoughts that I wish to share with regard to the following question. So here I am, again, with what I would probably have written should I have attempted that question.

Has there ever been a breakthrough film movement in Singapore cinema? Justify yes or no, and why.

No I do not think there has never been a breakthrough film movement in Singapore cinema. The revival of Singapore cinema in then 1990s may be considered a “breakthrough” for the sudden, dramatic and important development of film, a renaissance since the flourishing industry of the 1950s and 1960s met its demise following the shift in focus of Cathay-Keris Films and Shaw Brothers from that of a production house to a film distributor. But there has not been a “film movement” to talk about that is much alike the other film movements that I have discussed. A primary factor to consider in a film movement is a similarity in aesthetic and treatment of the films within a specific time period. Yet this has not yet been evident in Singapore cinema. Amid the local film circle are established auteurs like Eric Khoo, Royston Tan, Jack Neo and Kelvin Tong but their works all deviate widely from each other. Further, these directors (save for Jack Neo) are very sporadic, which does not fulfill the prolific nature of moviemakers within a film movement.

They possess distinctive styles. Eric Khoo’s Mee Pok Man (1995), 12 Storeys (1997), Be With Me (2005) and My Magic (2007) were all akin to neo-realism in their reflection of proletariat Singaporean society—as personalities like the hawker vendor, an alcoholic single parent, a prostitute came under the spotlight of his film. His style is more quasi-documentary, and he does not serve to sensationalize the films beyond the simplicity that they are.

Yet Royston Tan’s films like 15 (2003), 4:30 (2005), 881 (2007) take on an entirely different aesthetic with a staunch focus on musical elements. While he also deals with a reflection of the layman Singaporean society, dealing with marginalized characters like the gangster and the getai singer, unlike Khoo he opts to intersperse this contemporary realism with MTV-esque elements of song and dance such as rap in 15 (2003) and Chinese opera in 881 (2007).

Erstwhile, there is Jack Neo, the most prolific of the lot. But even though his films reflect contemporary Singaporean society too, he generally does it with a comedic twist, and in an almost catered-for-television manner that bears a throwback to his television roots. His repertoire includes Money No Enough (1998), I Not Stupid (2002), The Best Bet (2004), Just Follow Law (2007), though it also comprises the anomaly that was Home Run (2003). His style can hardly be considered experimental à la Khoo’s or Tan’s.

In comparison, Kelvin Tong’s style cuts the swarthe from experimental comedy (Eating Air, 1999) to horror (The Maid, 2005) and comedy horror (Men in White, 2007). Furthermore, his upcoming 2011 feature It’s a Great Great World is more of a historical biopic, and this lack of singularity in his style further contributes to the argument of a lack of a breakthrough film movement.

Yet the recent works of fledgling filmmakers may just serve to provide the impetus needed for a breakthrough film movement that Singapore cinema needs., These films bear Italian neorealist trademarks, and are generally experimental works that blend theatrical elements with realism in a quasi-documentary manner. Pertinent filmmakers of this movement—if they gain in prolificacy—will include Boo Junfeng (Sandcastle, 2009; Keluar Baris, 2008 (short) ), Han Yew Kuang (18 Grams of Love, 2008; When Hainan Meets Teochew, 2010), Nicholas Chee (Becoming Royston, 2007) and Loo Zihan (Solos, 2007). But whether or not this movement will kick start is determinant of the course that is set in the next two years or so.

Pleasure Factory (2007) 快樂工場

Country: Singapore, Thailand
Language: Mandarin, Tagalog, English, Cantonese
Theme: Romance/Erotica
Runtime: 88 minutes
Director: Ekachai Uekrongtham
Starring: Yang Kuei-mei, Ananda Everingham, Loo Zihan, Katashi Chen, Jeszlene Zhou

Ratings: IMDb: 5.1/10

Film Festivals:
2007 Cannes Film Festival: Un Certain Regard (official selection)
2007 Pusan International Film Festival

Awards: N/A
Nominations: N/A

This is a film that is notable for truly blurring the lines of national ownership. It fully embraces the age of cross-border collaboration and ownership. The director is Ekachai Uekrongtham, a Thai theatre and film director who is based in Singapore and is the founding artistic director of local theatre company ACTION Theatre. His repertoire includes the popular stage musical Chang & Eng. The film is set in Singapore, in particular, its red light district of Geylang. But among the film’s financers are Singapore-based Spicy Apple Films and the Hong Kong-Netherlands company Fortissimo Films aside from Singapore’s InnoForm Media. Amongst the multi-national cast is Taiwanese starlet Yang Kuei-mei (who has appeared in Tsai Ming-liang’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003) and Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)). There is up-and-coming actor Ananda Everingham, who has appeared in the Thai horror film Shutter (2004) and the Singapore production The Leap Years (2008), and he himself though born in Thailand, is of Laotian-Australian nationalities. There is also Singaporean writer-director (and ADM alumni) Loo Zihan.

I opted to classify the film both under Thailand and Singapore. Singapore, primarily because there is definitely no shying away from the fact that the story is based there. And Thailand because of Ekachai Uekrongtham’s Thai roots that definitely becomes pertinent in his direction of this film. Unless helmed by Loo Zihan himself, one of the few Singapore directors who is open about his homosexuality and about discussing controversial themes in his movies, Pleasure Factory would certainly have taken a wholly different angle. Uekrongtham’s involvement, however, has lead to an unusual masterpiece in South-East Asian cinema that embraces traditionally taboo topics such as prostitution, same-sex relationships, and that features explicit male nudity. The film was selected under the Un Certain Regard section of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

Pleasure Factory revolves around three distinct stories set around the theme of “pleasure seekers and pleasure providers”. They involve the young army cadet, Jonathan (Loo Zihan) who wants to make the passage to manhood by engaging the services of a prostitute to help him lose his virginity, a young teenage girl (Isabella Chen) who gets initiated into the monotonous pleasure-manufacturing process of the brothel, and the jaded prostitute, Linda (Yang Kuei-Mei) who pays a young busker for a song that he never gets to sing. These three stories are later united as the characters visit the same roadside stall, a characteristic feature of Geylang.

The film’s cinema vérité shooting style adds to the realism and spontaneity of the film. Despite its provocative theme or title, the film does not sensationalize or offer gratuitous amounts of nudity just for the sake of it. Neither does it border on cliché eroticism; instead what we get is the characters moving around in the genuine environment of Geylang. We as viewers are captivated by their emotional conflicts and turmoil rather than what goes on outside. An example is a key scene where Jonathan “prepares” himself while the female prostitute takes a shower. We are treated to a full three-minute sequence of the nude man shifting his body into different positions and trying to stimulate himself for her. His insecurities that are purveyed through these little actions are what makes the film so real – it pays attention to the minute details and does not attempt to gloss over any perculiarities or trivial habits. The lack of stylistic perspectives that typical films use makes Pleasure Factory a very raw and compelling watch. Further, a heavy reliance on visual language creates a minimalist feel.

Further, there is a notable lack of dialogue and music throughout the course of the film, probably to help in the creation of a more realistic feel and also add to the emotional tension between the characters. The director of Pleasure Factory says in an interview, “To me, what was really nice was the silence, the silences at the right time, because I think the film requires you to be part of the process. What we try to do is to make a film that allows the audiences to discover at the same time as the characters.” (Tan, 2007).

But the film does not focus solely on the sex trade plying around Geylang that has given the district its notoriety. Rather, it proffers a multitude of perspectives, befitting as Geylang is not just about the prostitutes. It’s a bustling and thriving community of people, driven by the desire to survive and make ends meet, and this multitude of perspectives is conveyed through the different characters and stories entwined throughout the entire film.

A personal qualm is that the movie comes across as rather disjointed at times. Midway through the movie, for instance, Uekrongtham inserted two excerpts of interviews he did with real people who work in Geylang via a documentary style footage. This sticks out of the running narrative like a sore thumb, There does not appear to be any clear motivation surrounding for doing so, and neither did it run in congruence with the rest of the film. It is, however, tempting to postulate that this is because of the need to pander to international audiences, and to bring them further into Geylang as a community.

Finally, the open-ended narrative style adopted runs the risk of viewers failing to develop any sense of emotional attachment with the characters. Rather, the viewer is the aloof onlooker that judges and criticizes without any feeling or empathy. This is a pity as emotional engagement is important to relate to the characters in any film. At the end of the day, Pleasure Factory may come across as being too vague and aloof, stylistically brilliant but lacking a certain innate oomph.

References

Tan, V. (2007, May 27). Channel NewsAsia: Singapore film on Geylang sex workers debuts to full house at Cannes. Retrieved on December 2, 2010, from: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/entertainment/view/278745/1/.html


Singapore Dreaming (2006) 美滿人生

Country: Singapore
Language: English, Mandarin, Hokkien
Runtime: 105 minutes
Director: Colin Goh, Wu Yen Yen
Starring: Richard Low, Alice Lim, Serene Chen, Yeo Yann Yann, Lim Yu-Beng, Dick Su
Theme: Culture

Ratings: IMDB: 6.7/10

Film Festivals:
2006 San Sebastián International Film Festival
2007 Asian-American International Film Festival
2007 Tokyo International Film Festival

Awards:
2006 SSIFF: Moutblanc New Screenwriter Award
2007 AAIFF: Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature
2007 TIFF: Best Asian/Middle-Eastern Film Award

Singapore Dreaming realistically captures the livelihood of a typical working class family, right down to the propagation of materialistic desires of the archetypical 5’C’s (cash, condominium, credit card, country club, career). This production, funded by renowned plastic surgeon Dr Woffles Wu, also features a joint collaboration between husband-wife pair Colin Goh and Wu Yen Yen, novice filmmakers with the former being the honcho between spoof website Talking Cock.

Like what most Singaporean movies like to do, probably to pander the film to an international audience who may not be familiar with what Singapore is like, Singapore Dreaming opens with a series of random cutaway ‘filler’ shots that capture the everyday essence of Singapore life, which are subsequently peppered through the film as “chapter dividers” that provide a breather in the flow of the film. For instance, the MRT station, the cashier counting bills, the hawker center, the wet market, the Singapore Pools outlet, a straight-up frontal shot of the Merlion etc. This is also evident in other films like the recent Boo Junfeng film Sandcastles (2010) and Eric Khoo films like 12 Storeys (1997) and Be With Me (2005). Images like the three-or-four-room HDB flat with its stoic corridors, wet market and hawker center will strike a resonance with local heartland culture, but also set the proletariat tone of the film among foreign audiences. Tied together with the title Singapore Dreaming, “dreaming” being an euphemism for Dream and the title a blatant reference to The American Dream, we sense that it remains an ongoing process for Singapore, in stark contrast to the finished product that are the ideals of the American Dream.

Realism is the standard directorial stylistic technique used in this film, as the movie aims to capture everyday Singaporeans going about their everyday work. The (then-)obsession over photography on camera phones is evident in 04:04 (CD1) as Irene takes a shot of her aunt preparing food on the camera phone, and in a subsequent scene as she takes a shot of a baby on the bus. Several still shots focus on Mei and CK, a couple whose drive on the expressway (06:35; CD1) contains testy dialogue that is a sign of frosty relations that is exemplified thorugh the means the characters are placed within the shot. The wife is akin to a passenger and the husband a chauffeur as the wife opts not to sit next to the husband in the front seat. This could be inferred as a distinct disparate nature of the “class” and “social” belonging both characters find themselves in. Mei can be inferred to look down on CK – and we learn that this is true later on in the movie, that she doesn’t think much of his job peddling insurance. Through separate cutaway scenes at 10:00 (CD1) that feature the lead protagonists at their respective workplaces, we can tell that they are all employed rather than self-employed, and their cubicled jobs indicate the menial everyday nature of their work. This is reinforced in 12:34 (CD1), when CK is seen flipping through his old yearbook and as he tries to peddle insurance to old classmates under the pretext of catching up. The camera cuts to a medium shot that captures the drab fluorescent lighting, sharp angles, and motivational posters on the wall that seemingly mock the characters in their everyday menial work.

Seng returns home, supposedly with an American degree, and is immediately viewed upon – with bias – as the pride and future of the family. But the directors drop subtle hints amid the context that all might not be as rosy as it seems. First, at 18:56 (CD1) the camera frames the shot such that Seng’s back is shown such that his face is not shown most of the time – an insinuation that he might have something to hide. There is palpable tension around the steamboat table as the characters mouth curt remarks at one another. Further, Seng doesn’t seem very happy when his father talks about his expectations – a sign of negativity surrounding his supposed degree. The close-up at 33:54 (CD1) has a fish tank by the corner of the frame, with the camera then panning to capture the fiancée as she cosies up to Seng, whose mother is hugging him from his left. Yet he doesn’t look contented despite having the love of the two most important women in his life. This is subsequently confirmed in the climactic burst-up when Seng confessed to not having graduated at all, and not acquiring a degree, thus signifiying that not only his parents have wasted tons of money on him, his fiancée Irene had also done so. Such is his materialistic demands and wants that he has squandered away the money and trust provided by his loved ones.

The voyeuristic paparazzi-esque framing at 37:49 (CD1) shows that the father character is not as self-righteous as he seems, but has something to hide. Through the use of a wide shot, the camera frames the father, along with his mistress and illegitimate child occupying a table amid many other customers at the roadside durian store. Rather than move closer into the scene to capture the state of being of the family through a direct focus on their expressions, the camera keeps its safety distance. This discreet shot implies something fishy is going on, and this is ascertained later when they appear at his funeral. The father’s death was a dramatic moment of stark contrast – his eagerness at winning $2 million in Toto a few days before and being elected for a country club membership interview short-lived as he dies of heart failure moments before the interview. The camera cuts away to a close-up of the swerving tennis racquet and ball within the tennis court, paired with the sound effects of the smack (05:34; CD2) as the world spins around him – and frames him (05:58; CD2) with a close-up that captures the vacant look in his eyes that indicate him losing sight of his ideals in life.

In portrayal of reality Goh and Wu opt for still shots through most of the movie, and hence the shaky camera shots that were used in the climax appear jarring in contrast. This was evident from 26:04 (CD2) onwards, when the camera shifts from a confrontation between Mei and Seng as he accuses her of forcing money out of their mother, who is apparently in shock and oblivious to the world.

Yet in spite of the wide critical acclaim and endorsement by President S R Nathan himself, the independent film still failed to break even, acquiring only $420,000 worth of box office gross that remains far short of the $800,000 production costs. Is this really a sign of the maturity of local audiences who would only support mainstream fare by Jack Neo?

Mad About English! (2008)

Country: Singapore, China
Language: English, Mandarin
Director:
Lian Pek
Running Time: 90 minutes

Theme: Culture (Language) / Documentary

Ratings: N/A

Awards: N/A

Film Festivals: N/A

Nominations: N/A

Mad About English (2008) is a peculiarity, simply for the lack of information that is even available on this documentary helmed by Singaporean filmmaker Lian Pek on the World Wide Web. Running a search through Google hardly throws up any hits save from a few (local) reviews here and there, such is the low-key nature of the film. But this is surprising, though, as I expected much more international media attention on the underground documentary that deals with the very timely and contemporary issue of Chinese nationals picking up English en masse to deal with the (then) upcoming Olympic Games and Shanghai World Expo, so as to play their part as good hosts and being able to bridge any communication barriers between themselves and the international community. Boy are those scenes captured on the parade square really scary, with tens of thousands of citizens congregating everyday just to listen to one man lecture at the podium in a scene perhaps similar to a revolutionary revolt.

Broken English, bizarre accents and awful grammar aside (“I not lazy, so I will success! – er, what?), their efforts are indeed commendable and Lian Pek’s social commentary ventures deep into the heart of China. They are inexorable and tireless in their spirit to pick up the language as a community, working in tandem and each doing his or her own part, however small it may be, in a widespread nationalistic sentiment that pushes China into a positive global limelight. There is, after all, only so much new state-of-the-art infrastructure like the Birds’ Nest can do. Camaraderie and rapport struck between the locals and the foreigners will be what eventually count and make the difference.

There is no excuse, regardless of age. There is a young girl enrolled in elementary school joining a language boot camp, and a retiree volunteer for the Games who practises her English everyday whilst doing taiji (“I a volunteer”). “Hello, how are you today?” they greet warmly. They are humble in the face of their lack of knowledge, and appear to be willing to listen to advice, correct themselves and learn—very much unlike Singaporeans who fall prey to grammar lapses such that a “Speak Good English Campaign” is necessary, or the Taiwanese who flamed the Singaporean brand of English on a variety show that is very much uncalled for, given the higher standard of the language Singapore has over the Taiwanese. (And I say this for a fact: the foreign friends I made while I was on exchange could hardly understand the Taiwanese brand of the language)

The documentary at just 90 minutes long is a terse affair—and I can’t help but feel that much more could have been done to ensure a more all-rounded perspective of the issue. The film pans out like a propagandistic affair that has no downside to it, as hardly any negative point of view is acquired through the lenses of the camera. But still, it is undeniable that the documentary is a well executed one, gently paced with moments of unintentional comedy shining through with massive grammar faux pas

 

The Teenage Textbook Movie (1998)

Country: Singapore
Language: English
Runtime: 100 minutes
Director: Philip Lim
Starring: Melody Chen, Caleb Goh, Lim Hwee Sze, Chong Chee Kin, Steven Lim, Randall Tan

Theme: Culture

Ratings: IMDB.com: 7.0/10

The Teenage Textbook Movie (1998) is a satire of the Singapore junior college education system, and is a film adaptation of the 1988 Adrian Tan bestseller, The Teenage Textbook. It takes a light-hearted look into the lives of four students as they begin their junior college education. Such prevalent references to the book are present throughout the movie, that is split into various chapters that all take a cue from the original book. For instance, the movie opens with a quote from the book, “Teenagers love movies that start with good music” (00:00), before mocking the schizophrenic, confused state of wearing secondary school uniforms to their junior colleges during the first three months of school. With the film centered upon particularly the first three months of junior college years, the movie takes on a very Singaporean point of view, as it broaches upon topics like boy-girl relationships, family relations, money, materialism, etc.

It is worth noting that the film was well-received critically and managed to top the Singapore box office at a point of time, though given the trends of films like that it most likely rode on the initial popularity of the best-selling book. The film is stylistically rich, with many comedic techniques used throughout the film. The stereotypical “love at first sight” glance is paired with romantic music at 4:24, and at 5:06 the tacky mood for the comedy is set with the announcements over the school PA system for the students to “proceed your way into the school hall”, from a principal that graduated with a pHd from Calcutta. Letters drop off from the school signage at random – the original being PAYA LEBAR JUNIOR COLLEGE, and instances include “PAY” to form “A LEBAR JUNIOR COLLEGE”, and other permutations to form phrases like “PAY BAR UNCLE” and even “EAR JUICE”, a form of witty cynicism amid wordplay that is common throughout the film. For instance, “pimple” is defined as “a minor eruption of pus on the surface of the skin”, or “the end of the world”.

The characters are plain stereotypical caricatures, but these caricatures must have been real at one point of time for them to become stereotypes, and one should be able to draw reference from them. Espoused character types include the geeky female, the nerdy male, the rich kid, the suave flirt, the hunky bookworm and the beauty. the Mui Ee (Melody Chen) comes of age with the help of her best friend Sissy Song (Lim Hwee Sze) as she picks up skills like party etiquette and dating on Valentine’s Day, though not without complaints such as “How can you be so enthusiastic and still get to a party two hours late?” (11:51). She falls for the school flirt, before settling for a more down-to-earth relationship with the geeky but reliable Chong Gay (Caleb Ng).

A gripe is the numerous filler shots used to beef up the length of the movie, and these senseless shots that capture driving scenes to random local sites like Orchard, Simei and Holland Village are grating and redundant. It is a convenient means for the audience to hear the (not so) witty jokes over the radio (with 98.7FM being on air), but this does not serve to value-add to the scene at any bit. There does not seem to be any scene in particular that really needs to take place in these areas, the setting mostly ambiguous HDB flats, for instance.

Since the release of The Teenage Textbook Movie (1998), similar films have been few and far between. Eating Air (1999) attempts to blend comic elements of anime manga but to not much success, and the sociological movies after that all tended towards a more serious tone (with the exception of Jack Neo films that resort to jokes on a more realistic scale rather than the stylistic exaggeration seen in these films).

Watch it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIYbvZi3Wt8

Eating Air (1999) Jiak Hong / 吃風


Country:
Singapore
Language: English, Mandarin, Hokkien
Director: Kelvin Tong & Jasmine Ng
Runtime: 100 minutes
Starring: Benjamin Heng, Alvina Toh, Joseph Cheong, Mark Lee, Michelle Chong

Theme: Crime/Gangsterism

Ratings: IMDB: 4.9/10

Film Festivals:
2000 Rotterdam International Film Festival (RIFF)
2000 Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF)
2000 Stockholm Film Festival (SFF)

Awards:
2000 Silver Screen Award for Young Cinema (SIFF) – Kelvin Tong, Jasmine Ng
2000 FIPRESCI Prize – Honorable Mention (SFF), “for its sense of escapism and youthful dreams through visual metaphors, special effects and inventive humour.”

Nominated:
2000 Tiger Award (RIFF)
2000 Silver Screen Award for Best Asian Feature (SIFF)
2000 Bronze Horse (SFF)

Eating Air is former film critic Kelvin Tong’s debut feature film foray, albeit a joint collaboration with another directorial upstart Jasmine Ng. It remain the latter’s sole feature film work, having went on to documentary direction with credits in Lonely Planet Six Degrees and Invisible City. Kelvin Tong, however, boasts subsequent box office hits like The Maid (2005), Rule No 1 (2008) and Kidnapper (2010) to his filmography. It must be noted that Eating Air was one of the films to premiere amongst the influx that came with the renaissance of Singapore cinema, and it was also one of the many that fell flat, failing to break even. Made on a budget of S$800,000, it only managed to gross $350,000 during its month-long run.

A significant feature of Eating Air is its heavy use of visual metaphors and special effects, a tone set right from the start through the use of bright, sharp, vivid colors throughout the film that sometimes border on psychedelic. The punk, proletariat tone of the film is set right from the start through the use of stereotypical clichés. First, we have Ah Boy (the protagonist) on a motorcycle spinning left and right (despite keeping within his lane) along the virtually deserted roads along Bugis. The punk rock track in the background lends credence to this mood in the opening sequence. We then see Ah Boy entering the expressway when another motorcycle pulls up beside him. The symbolic act of sharing a smoke cements their relationship as good friends. The scene ends with another car with troublemakers chasing them, which eventually gets into a chain collision, the comedic tone set when the hooligans get out of the car ready to start a brawl and they realize their motorcycles simply would not start; they then sit by the kerb, bloodied (03:21).

Further establishing the uncouth nature of the movie is Ah Boy’s first actions after waking up from bed. Topless, he stretches as he stands by the doorway and gives his crotch a gentle scratch (04:25).

Chinese/Japanese martial art comic impressions (04:19) are visible through Ah Boy’s surrealist dream sequences that start off with a clap of thunder in the background and him wielding a sword to fight with a ninja (04:12). Such instances are peppered throughout the film, and his opponents range from his parents (04:50), geishas (26:51) and even the elevator (06:09). “In this world, I walk alone,” he declares.

A key scene (and a very clever one, I must add, in terms of aesthetics and technique that all film students really should study) of the movie begins in the photocopying shop at 27:34, which captures the menial, repetitive nature of the job. The rhythmic scans of the machine is remixed with steady drum beats, marking the begin of a full two-minute long sequence that leads to other rhythmic actions. We see Ah Girl playing with her purple pen, a man walking by the shop, a lady ironing clothes, a man playing with coins, a man swinging the plastic bag, an athlete bouncing a ball, a man lifting weights, a hostess banging on her mike etc. This smooth rhythm creates a prominence of menial Singaporean tasks that many have taken for granted and not paid much attention to. Further, it bears a stark contrast to the gang chase that ensues.

The anime influence of the movie is further expounded through the emphasis on the blow of punches and faces hitting the wall, through close-up shots utilized at 30:40 for instance. Further, the anime emphasis on color is evident in the scene at 35:30, where a black-white, good-evil dichotomy is omnipresent through their attire. This scene is further contrasted with

The main difference between Eating Air and Royston Tan’s seminal 15 (2003) – which also deals with similar themes of gangsterism – is that the latter came under heavy scrutiny by the film censors, and thus was thrusted into the public limelight. Eating Air perhaps failed on this count, aside from its poor timing that pushed it into the shadows of other more prominent commercial releases such as Jack Neo’s Liang Po Po: The Movie (1999) and the Fann Wong-helmed The Truth About Jane & Sam (2000). While it did make a slight ripple on the international film festival circuit for its vivid tones and inventive humour, I believe this remains one of the most underrated Singaporean films of all time. For it manages to capture the root and essence of the Singaporean culture (the next film that manages to do that, in my opinion, is Singapore Dreaming (2006)), whilst seamlessly marrying elements of Japanese manga anime within.