Eric Khoo among five South-east Asian film-makers to create shorts for National Gallery

Eric Khoo, local film-maker.
Eric Khoo, local film-maker. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

SINGAPORE - Five film-makers from South-east Asia have been commissioned by National Gallery Singapore to make short films inspired by the art in its collection.

They are Singapore's Eric Khoo, Malaysia's Ho Yuhang, Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Brillante Mendoza from the Philippines and Joko Anwar of Indonesia.

Earlier this year, they went to view the institution's collection of South-east Asian art, of which there are around 400 pieces. Each then selected one to shape their theme for a five-minute film.

No constraints were placed on the film-makers, who could pick art from any country.

The five shorts will be compiled into an omnibus to debut at the end of the year, most likely at the Singapore International Film Festival, with other avenues for public access to be explored, says Ms Suenne Megan Tan, the gallery's director of education and programmes.

The scheme is the first of its kind by the gallery.

"The film-makers selected the works that most resonated with them... It underscores how we believe that people can relate to art by bringing their own personal connections, to develop their own narrative," Ms Tan says.

National Gallery Singapore and the Singapore Film Commission funded the plan, but the sum given to the film-makers is undisclosed.

Khoo picked the oil painting Portable Cinema, by Singapore artist Chua Mia Tee. The 1977 work was created for a calender distributed by The Straits Times depicting vanishing trades. Chua drew a trishaw-mounted peepshow, a common sight in the 1940s.

Khoo, speaking to the press at the National Gallery Singapore on Thursday (May 19), talks about meeting Chua, now 85, and asking the older man to describe what it was like to watch a reel, which typically featured a heroic figure, such as Tarzan.

"He loved to watch these little one-cent films. Just after the war, he would go to the cart, put a coin in, and crank the handle. The reels would last two minutes, so he'd crank it really slowly, to stretch it to four minutes," says Khoo.

His short film will feature interviews with Chua, whose work he has admired for a long time.

Apichatpong, winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festrival for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), picked as his inspiration two companion works by Indonesian painter Raden Saleh, Merapi, Eruption By Day and Merapi, Eruption By Night, both created in 1865.

Mendoza, winner of the Best Director award at Cannes for Kinatay (2009), picked a painting from his countryman Fernando Cueto Amorsolo, Marketplace During The Occupation, created in 1942.

Ho, whose film Rain Dogs (2006) was the first Malaysian work selected for the Venice Film Festival, picked Aku, painted in 1958, by Malaysian artist Latiff Mohidin.

Joko Anwar's film The Forbidden Door (2009) won Best Film at the Pucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. He picked Wounded Lion, an oil painting from his compatriot Raden Saleh, created in 1839.