The filmmaker tells Channel NewsAsia's Genevieve Loh it's all about embracing diversity, even when views and practices differ.
SINGAPORE: In socially delicate times, a gentle reminder of the spirit and power of kinship is always worthwhile. And that is why homegrown filmmaker Royston Tan wanted to make The Provision Shop, his latest telemovie about social adjustment in multicultural Singapore.
Tan told Channel NewsAsia that he gravitated towards this project, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) in collaboration with Tribal Worldwide Singapore, because of the “sentiments about social integration” he’s been hearing on the ground.
“I feel it’s important to put that in,” said the 39-year-old director. “Singapore is home to an increasingly diverse population. While a greater population mix brings richer cultural experiences, it also creates points of tension when views and practices differ. It’s all about embracing diversity.”
The Provision Shop tells four stories revolving around a diverse community of locals and foreigners grappling with social tensions, and show how through mutual understanding and respect there will eventually be the openness to embrace change and diversity. A celebration of Singapore’s unique and multi-cultural heritage, it stars familiar faces like Marcus Chin and Sora Ma alongside award-winning theatre veterans like Siti Khalijah and newcomers Aden Tan and Sarah Daniel.
Actresses Siti Khalijah and Li Yinzhu in The Provision Shop
“I wanted to recapture that sense of a strong community spirit that, I believe, is still very much alive and pervasive in our urban city,” said Tan. “As we continue to evolve as a community, I hope that we will continue to build on and preserve the humanity that is at the heart of our interactions – that human connection and understanding which knit us together, no matter where we come from.”
For Tan, who spent his own childhood growing up in one, a provision shop was clearly the ideal setting for him to tell a story about Singapore's kampong spirit. And he found the perfect filming location in Tee Seng Store, an actual provision shop along Rosyth Road that still boasts its traditional signage, zinc roof and hanging milo-tin for cash payments. Tee See Store has been in operation for more than 60 years.
“To me, (a provision shop) is not just a place for transactions, but also where we build relationships and deepen ties,” he said. “So when I stumbled upon this hidden gem of a provision shop that was more than half a century old, I was fascinated beyond words. I’m glad that I could capture this rare sight on film, for us and our future generations to look back on.”
Always one for attention to detail, Tan and his crew took months to source for retro props and yesteryear goodies to film a segment on old tidbits of the past. However, The Provision Shop isn’t all just about the charms of Singapore. In one of the stories, Tan teased that there will also be a spoof of Descendants Of The Sun, something which he feels will intrigue and excite the fans of the hit Korean TV drama series.
Director Royston Tan takes spoofing hit Korean drama Descendants of the Sun very seriously.
So, for a filmmaker who first made his cinematic mark with 15 - his explosive debut film about teen gangs and delinquency in Singapore - is there a reason why he’s recently gravitated to a string of government-commissioned works, like the National Museum of Singapore video installation marking the first anniversary of the passing of Singapore's first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the National Heritage Board’s one hour documentary film on Pulau Ubin residents for Singapore HeritageFest 2016?
“I guess they are all telling Singapore stories,” he replied. “And it's something I hold very dearly in my heart.”
The Provision Shop will air on Mediacorp Channel 8, Jul 17 2016, at 9pm.