New films launched online

Two new films of mine are launched online for the first time. The first is an animation, its my first animation, though I would also call it a dance performance. The other, about a set of graffiti found at the infamous Yangtze Cinema in Singapore. Click on the links below to view.
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A dance featuring a cast of words inspired by a thesaurus, 6 min
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A set of grafitti is found at Yangtze Cinema, 6 min
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Watch it big by clicking on the expand button, play it loud.
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These films are commissioned by the Singapore Memory Project. an ambitious project which aims to collect, tag and showcase Singapore memories.
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Making memories, S’pore-style
Singapore Memory Project aims to collect, record and preserve five million personal memories of Singapore from Singaporeans.
Tay Yek Keak, mypaper
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Wed, Apr 25, 2012
In the light of the debate over the preservation of the Bukit Brown cemetery, here are three timely short films – made by two top female Singaporean directors – which remind us of the importance of not forgetting about a thing called Memory.
The films are part of the Singapore Memory Project run by the National Library Board, which aims to collect, record and preserve five million personal memories of Singapore from Singaporeans by 2015 for future generations.
In the march of time, things get erased, misplaced, waylaid or simply unceremoniously forgotten. That is why memories are important, as the late American writer Saul Bellow reasoned, to “keep the wolf of insignificance from the door”.
Here’s what to expect.
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Yangtze Scribbler
Director: Tan Pin Pin
This fascinating video appeals to your inner snoop, and will give you a taste of The Da Vinci Code in Singapore.
Okay, checking out the graffiti in a dingy stairwell of Chinatown’s Pearl Centre where Yangtze Cinema – that quaintly cool bastion of sleaze house-art house – used to sit isn’t exactly the stuff of books or movies.
But repeatedly scrawled on the walls there is a mysterious combination of numbers and stick figures.
Could they be gang messages or alien symbols? Or, maybe they were simply the work of some pervert recording how many dirty movies he’d seen.
The narrator of this docu-sleuthing is Debbie Ding, somebody who has been archiving signs and symbols in Singapore.
I have to confess that I’m a big fan of director Tan Pin Pin (Singapore GaGa, Invisible City). She is a premier observer of details and the invisible patterns that link them.
In Yangtze Scribbler, she stirs your curiosity enough to make you think. That’s the first step in the path to creating a memory. You’ll never forget when something intrigues you. And this short surely does.
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Director: Tan Pin Pin
The first time I saw this clever experimental clip which features words leading into more words on a starkly white background, I thought it was a student work done by a dictionary fan.
But Tan’s six-minute video, dubbed a “visual thesaurus”, imprints essential cautionary directions onto your mind the way you’d never forget a letter from a divorce lawyer.
Starting from the key opposing words of “remember” and “forget”, the trail leads off to a web of ancillary words that adds more and more meaning and purpose – and finally, danger! – to the one before.
Remember, regain, record, retrieve, observe, witness, discovery, cure, heal, unify, improve; and, conversely, forget, block, bury, erase, leave – each word is connected by moving lines which grow and evolve like a living organism.
If you’re some kind of Scrabble freak, you’re in for a hypnotic word fest. Just remember to remember the word “remember”.
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Singapore Country
Director: Wee Li Lin
Matthew Tan is Singapore’s very own home-grown cowboy who went to Nashville, Tennessee (home of country music), in 1975 with the intention of creating a FSS (famous Singapore song).
In this short, he tells interviewer Adrian Pang that in a motel there, he and a motel employee, Bristow Hopper, came up with Singapore Cowboy, Tan’s lonesome ode to local sons in distant lands.
Director Wee Li Lin’s (Gone Shopping, Forever) approach is predictable, using yesteryear photos of cheesy hair and clothes to pile on the nostalgia.
The bit before a sit-down interview with Adrian Pang, though, is playfully cheeky as a throng of good ol’ gals line- dance, with Tan singing onstage.
It is an articulate Tan who nails down his strange affinity for all things country.
“I lived in Upper Serangoon which was a very ulu place with attap houses,” he reveals. “You cannot be any more country than that.”

National Museum’s Cinemateque Quarterly latest issue is out

You can download the PDF HERE.
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This 3rd issue features writings by Philip Cheah and Jasmine Nadua Trice on the state of SE Asian film archiving and a piece by Ho Rui Ann too. The publication is edited by Vinita Ramani Mohan. It features an interview with me on page 55. I’d like to thank National Museum’s team for the thoroughness and utter professionalism they approached this email interview.
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For the last decade Tan Pin Pin has used the documentary form to make visible aspects of daily life in Singapore that are selectively ignored or conveniently forgotten. Her films seek out fascinating characters with stories to tell, objects that trigger memories and traditional practices that have to be continually modified to make way for an efficient and hyper-modernised way of life. A careful observer, Pin Pins filmmaking shows sensitivity to a city in a perpetual state of flux, as well as a keen eye for the fatalism and dark wit that typifies Singaporean humour. In this
e-mail interview with the Cinmathque Quarterly, she discusses her filmic beginnings, the processes behind many of her works, and why its important to keep asking the right questions.
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What was the initial trigger that made you want to be a filmmaker?
While I was an undergraduate studying to be a lawyer, I was introduced to photography as I was browsing through the art section of the University library. I was influenced by photographers Robert Frank, Gary Winogrand and Diane Arbus. They championed a personal way of seeing and an independent way of working, both themeswhich I still subscribe to. I started out as a photographer and moved to the moving image a few years later when technology became more affordable. I wanted my images to talk and move. At that time, filmmaking was a very exotic and expensive sounding activity, but I sensed that things were about to change.
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What was your very first film and did it contain within it, a hint of the themes that would come to preoccupy you?
My first film was Moving House, the 1997 version (which was an earlier version of the one most people have seen that won the Student Academy Award). This was shot in 1995 with Jasmine Ng’s help. I borrowed a 16mm Bolex and a Betacam video camera from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. This film was like a home movie because it featured my family. I filmed my family overseeing the exhumation of my great-grandfather and moving his remains to Mandai Columbarium. I wanted to make a memoriam for the first “Tan” who came to Singapore in the late 1890s from Fujian, China, and spawned four generations. It was thus a story of Singapore. I am interested in beginnings.
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Was your interest in filmmaking furthered through film school and if not, how has the fact of being self-taught aided your creative process?
These were the pre-Internet days. I read voraciously at the library and was a fervent attendee at all Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) and Singapore Film Society (SFS) events but there is only so much you can do as an autodidact with no equipment. I decided to work at Mediacorp in the drama department to learn the ropes of production. I was an assistant director in the series Triple Nine and VR Man. To this day, continuity is second nature to me because of the training from that period. When I won a scholarship to attend Northwestern University’s MFA film programme 2 years later, I found I had to unlearn everything to re-learn the language of art! I am still learning.
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Do you think it is more difficult being a film-maker in Singapore, as compared to elsewhere in Asia, or beyond?
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Read more? Download PDF HERE
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