Hosting a 'watch party' to give film lovers, local distributors a boost during Covid-19 circuit breaker

One developed a website to give hawker stalls a greater online presence. Another held a film screening and post-session discussions online to recapture the communal experience of cinema. The Sunday Times speaks to five groups who have responded to circuit breaker measures in creative ways that have made Singaporean lives a tad better.

Around 11pm on April 4, about 600 people tuned in to an Instagram live video, co-hosted by writer Amanda Lee Koe and film-maker Kirsten Tan, of a discussion of Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, written and directed by Celine Sciamma.

Prior to the discussion, the pair hosted a "watch party" of that same film with people streaming it in their homes together in a bid to capture the "no-pressure camaraderie" of a cinematic experience.

"I love the feeling of watching a film in a cinema. It's anonymous, but there's also a connection," said Ms Lee Koe.

"You would be surprised, but the simple act of trying to watch a film 'together'... feels fundamentally different from watching a film on your own. Knowing that for the next two hours, others would also be living in and engaged by the same world as you, makes the experience so much richer."

The idea was inspired by a similar screening organised by Ms Tan and director Boo Junfeng earlier, which Ms Lee Koe also participated in - albeit in self-isolation, following her return from New York to Singapore.

The film was provided by Anticipate Pictures, a local indie film distribution company.

Company founder Vincent Quek spoke about the difficulties of being an indie distributor under the present upended circumstances, prompting Ms Lee Koe to urge those watching Portrait Of A Lady On Fire with her to rent or buy the film for screening.

At least 70 people heeded her plea on April 4. "These rentals or purchases help to keep Anticipate afloat, and also support film directors, who benefit from legal international distribution," she said.

"Without indie players who invest in sourcing for and acquiring rights to release less profitable art-house films in Singapore, all we'd see in local cinemas would more or less be Hollywood blockbusters."

"Watch party" screengrabs of (clockwise from top left) writer Amanda Lee Koe, film-maker Kirsten Tan and Anticipate Pictures founder Vincent Quek. PHOTO: VINCENT QUEK

Ms Lee Koe said she decided to do the post-viewing discussion on Instagram as it allowed viewers to be anonymous and so was less stressful for some. Viewers ran parallel discussions in the live comments as she spoke, engaging and interacting with one another and asking follow-up questions.

A viewer who was tuning in from the United Kingdom also thanked Ms Lee Koe for helping her feel connected to her Singaporean partner.

"Art has long been seen as frivolous and dispensable... The 'turn to the arts' during this pandemic reflects the inner need for culture, creativity and expression that has always existed inside all of us," Ms Lee Koe said.


"I'm normally someone who gets annoyed with people who use their phones in a cinema. But, in this pandemic, largely confined to our rooms, I think we were really all just craving a feeling of togetherness."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 26, 2020, with the headline 'Hosting a 'watch party' to give film lovers, local distributors a boost'. Print Edition | Subscribe