Diplomatic missions screening Singapore films in cultural push

Cinema still from Royston Tan’s Bunga Sayang, one of the seven short films in this year's 7 Letters anthology.
Cinema still from Royston Tan’s Bunga Sayang, one of the seven short films in this year's 7 Letters anthology.PHOTO: 7 LETTERS, ROYSTON TAN

Local films are going abroad in a cultural diplomacy project by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

Sent to Singapore's diplomatic missions that express an interest, the travelling package comprises 10 feature-length and 10 short films.

They range from black-and- white Malay classics to this year's 7 Letters anthology, a collection of short films about Singapore by established film-makers. The project aims at "profiling Singapore's cultural offerings abroad and developing international opportunities for our artists and institutions", the MFA said in response to queries.

The ministries partnered the National Museum of Singapore's Cinematheque department to curate the list, with each chosen film representing a significant development in Singapore's film landscape.

Four Malay films by the Cathay- Keris studio and Shaw's Malay Film Productions, from the 1950s and 1960s, were chosen as representatives of the golden age of Singapore cinema, including P. Ramlee's first directorial effort, Penarek Becha (1955).

A more recent classic is Eric Khoo's 12 Storeys (1997), which is widely regarded to have contributed to the revitalisation of local cinema, MFA said. "The other films that followed began to reflect a distinct Singaporean voice."

Other feature-length works include the critically acclaimed Ilo Ilo (2013) and the crowd-pleasing satire, I Not Stupid (2002).

The 10 short films in the package are from the National Museum's annual Singapore Short Cuts festival, with works by film-makers such as Tan Pin Pin, Boo Junfeng and K. Rajagopal.

"Film is accessible to a wide range of audiences and remains a good way for others to learn more about Singapore's heritage and culture," said an MFA spokesman.

From July to September, screenings of selected films were held by MFA missions in Berlin, Chennai, Hong Kong, New Delhi and London. More are expected next year.

Film-maker Royston Tan said he was honoured to have his getai musical, 881, included in the package.

"I hope it will open new perspectives for people who are not familiar with Singapore," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2015, with the headline 'Diplomatic missions screening Singapore films in cultural push'. Print Edition | Subscribe