Sunday, January 8, 2017

ciNE65 season IV (2017)

The year 2016 ended on a rather heartwarming note for me.

I was commissioned to create a film for the annual film competition ciNE65. I have been a mentor and judge in the previous editions of the event. It's feels like a full circle to be asked to make a film.

The pressure is on. It's the case of the judge being judged haha.

The theme for ciNE65 IV is Home.Truly. I called the film THE USUAL.

This is not an easy theme to dwell on. What is Home, truly?

I spent a few days pondering over what "home" means to me? I did some soul-searching, firstly into my past to look at situations that remind me of "home". Obviously there are more than 1001 things out there in Singapore that I can anchor my film on. Eventually I decided to look beyond the present, far back during my childhood days when I was a toddler when my late father used to bring my older male siblings and myself to our monthly haircut session at the small barbershop run by a jovial Mr Siva at Jalan Majapahit, old Jurong Road.

The trips to the barbershop was especially memorable. The barbershop had a very unique cultural setting. Mr Siva's barbershop was not spacious. It was painted in turquoise paint and had only 2 worn-out, mechanical barber chairs in red, placed closely together. The walls were filled with iconic Hindustan-Tamil movie stars of the day. On another side of the wall, it was covered with images of various Hindu deities, with a Hindu altar that occupied central position of this wall. All day long, the airwaves would be filled with a mixture of Hindi and Tamil pop songs from the movies. The whole experience was like entering into a rural Disneyland for this wide-eyed toddler.

Although I enjoyed the trips, it traumatised 😲 me whenever it was my turn to have my haircut. I think the video below summarised how I felt back then. Haha. And when my turn was over (and I've stopped crying crocodile tears by then), I would spend the time by myself in the barbershop examining the various tools while my dad and Mr Siva, while cutting my brother's hair, caught up with family news and the politics of the day.

When you are on the barber's chair, it seems that all the human liberty and childhood freedom are stripped off from your life! The sound of the clipper sounded like your head will be mowed off your shoulders any second. Furthermore, you were actually witnessing yourself getting traumatised via the mirror.

In retrospect, besides the childhood hair-raising experience, I really have to give credit to my late father for always taking us out for unique experiences outside of my Malay upbringing - and the barbershop trips was just one of them. I can't remember all of them but I do recall moments during my childhood when he would hung out at the Chinese kopitiam located along the barbershop to chit-chat with the Chinese uncles there.

Secondly, to anchor the film in the present, I've decided to use my experience in the army while serving National Service in the 1st Commando Battalion. I'm privilege to have the experience to go through what many young men can only think of.

Finally, these are the two experiences that are very personal for me. These are some of the personal moments that for me, would always remind me of Singapore - regardless where I am in the world.

Moments that will always remind me of Home⧫Truly.

I am honoured to have the Defence Minister, Dr Ng Eng Hen, spare some time to appear in this little project. Thank you, Sir.

Here is the behind-the-scenes video to THE USUAL. Thank you, MINDEF, for this awesome shoutout.

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