NDP short film pays tribute to unsung heroes who joined fight against Covid-19

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SINGAPORE - When the pandemic hit two years ago, dancer and choreographer Francesca Harriman saw her shows cancelled one after another when Covid-19 restrictions ruled out live performances.

As her source of income dried up, a friend urged her to apply to become a swabber in the healthcare industry after seeing a job advertisement online.

"I got the job and went for training. It was the only job I was doing then as there were no jobs for those in the arts industry," said Ms Harriman, who was mostly deployed at migrant worker dormitories.

"But I felt it was meaningful as I was playing a role to help our country fight against Covid-19."

The story of how she coped with the challenges of Covid-19 is among those featured in a short film in this year's National Day Parade (NDP), which will be held at the Marina Bay floating platform. It will be the first full-scale parade since the start of the pandemic.

Titled Connections, the film also pays tribute to other groups of people who made a difference during the pandemic, such as healthcare professionals, social workers, volunteers and teachers.

With the easing of Covid-19 measures, Ms Harriman has gone back to dancing professionally, though she still regularly does swabbing duties at clinics.

She is portrayed in the film by actress Julie Wee.

Actress Julie Wee (left) and dancer and choreographer Francesca Harriman, who worked as a swabber during the pandemic. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Speaking to The Straits Times at The Float last Thursday (July 21), Ms Harriman, who declined to reveal her age, said she hopes her story will be a tribute to the people she met as a swabber, such as those who did administrative work behind the scenes.

The short film, directed by playwright and author Ken Kwek, also features a deaf character called Mo, who helped to distribute meals to the community during Covid-19.

Mo's character is inspired by Ms Lily Goh, a 43-year-old deaf media producer.

Deaf performer Ammar, 30, who goes by one name and has been in the arts sector for eight years, portrays Mo in the film.

Noting that Mr Kwek wanted a deaf person to play the character, Mr Ammar said: "He said it was important for me to portray the challenges someone in the deaf community may face."

Deaf performer Ammar (left) will be playing a character called Mo, who is inspired by Ms Lily Goh (right). PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Ms Goh's hope is to break the social barrier that may exist between the deaf community and the rest of society.

"We hope to tell everyone that we can live our lives independently. We are just like everyone else and we believe our segment in the film will portray that," she said.

Another character in the film is based on care professional Asy'ari Asni, 34, who said he never expected his story would be told on a platform as big as NDP.

Mr Asy’ari Asni (left) with actor Farez Najid. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

His job scope consists of helping the elderly or people with disabilities at their homes.

On what the film means to him, Mr Asni said he was touched by how it celebrates ordinary Singaporeans.

"We work regular jobs, but we do have a small part to play to keep society going, especially in the thick of the pandemic. That's why I believe this year's NDP theme - Stronger Together - is very poignant, as it is about appreciating all those people on the ground who have made us stronger together."

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