Filed under: News
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 Pin’s 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 Cinémathèque Quarterly, she discusses her filmic beginnings, the processes behind many of her works, and why it’s important to keep asking the right questions.
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.
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.
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.
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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