Short films Rayqal and Happy To See You Too to screen at Silver Arts 2017 festival

Above: Choo Siew Feng (left) and Cai Ping Kai in Happy To See You Too.
Above: Choo Siew Feng (left) and Cai Ping Kai in Happy To See You Too.PHOTO: ERIC W.K. NG
Above: Hamzi Arif in Rayqal.
Above: Hamzi Arif in Rayqal.PHOTO: SUFYAN SAM'AN

Short films Rayqal and Happy To See You Too were commissioned by the National Arts Council for the Silver Arts 2017 festival

Film-maker Sufyan Sam'an is the kind of artist who "looks at the vision first, before talking about the budget".

It is why, for his short film Rayqal, he does something unusual for a director on a limited budget: He includes an original song.

"I write the story first, then try to work around it with what I have," the 32-year-old freelance director says about his work style.

He did not reveal any figures, but says he used part of his budget to hire composer and performer Riduan Yusoff to write and perform a romantic 1970s-style ballad, with assistant producer Anisah Azmi providing the lyrics.

In the drama-comedy, the young man of the film's title (played by Hamzi Arif) is a musician desperate to form a new group after he throws a tantrum that triggers a band walkout.

After hearing his grandfather, Yusoff (Rahmat Johari), perform on a recording, he asks the older man to play with him. Yusoff brings along his friends, Uncle Teck (Danny Teo) and Uncle Sammy (Jayaraman).

  • BOOK IT / SILVER FILMS 2017

  • WHERE: At various Golden Village (GV) cinemas.

    WHEN: Till Sept 24

    ADMISSION: $6. Senior citizens pay $3, available only at GV counters.

    INFO: For schedules, go to gv.com.sg

The vinyl record that Yusoff plays for Rayqal has the song that director Sufyan commissioned.

"It's a love song about how the songwriter falls in love with a girl," he says. While he does not play an instrument, the film-maker is a sometime singer and it is his vocal performance on the song that Yusoff plays for Rayqal.

Sufyan's work is one of two short films commissioned by the National Arts Council as part of its Silver Arts 2017 festival, an event dedicated to the well-being of seniors.

The Silver Films component of the festival consists of Silver Shorts, comprising specially commissioned and existing short films, and Silver Features - four films from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan that focus on family, relationships and reconciliation.

Sufyan says he was largely raised by his paternal grandparents, who died when he was in his 20s.

"I miss having them around. When I was writing the script, I thought about them," he says.

Film-maker Yee Chang Kang is also a musician, with local indie rock band Typewriter. His commissioned short film, the 17-minute Happy To See You Too, however, does not feature an original song.

But like Sufyan, the 45-year-old director of the mainly Cantonese- dialect drama drew on his experiences with seniors around him. Mainly, his mother, who uses a wheelchair and whom he describes as "feisty".

She might be in her 80s, but she is nothing like the saintly or pitiful elderly people seen in too many films, he says.

"My pet peeve is films in which the old people are frail, sad and shot in sepia tones," he says.

His film is about two women, former friends who have not seen each other in decades. Their reunion is tinged with anger and regret, as it should be with anyone of that age, says Yee.

Creating empathy with the elderly is about humanising them, and embracing their habits, some of which are often viewed by younger people as rude behaviour.

"I can understand why older ladies are in such a hurry to get into the MRT to find their reserved seats. Some young people just don't know what it's like for older people and they never give up their seats," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2017, with the headline 'Golden years on the silver screen'. Print Edition | Subscribe