Singapore’s first dialect film anthology gets Busan International Film Festival premiere

Singapore’s first dialect film anthology gets Busan International Film Festival premiere

Executive producer Royston Tan tells Channel NewsAsia’s Genevieve Loh that 667 is “a rediscovery of ourselves and also a rediscovery for foreigners when they see Singaporean-Chinese”.

667 is Singapore first dialect omibus helmed by five young filmmakers
667 is Singapore's first dialect omnibus helmed by five young filmmakers (Photo: 667)

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s first dialect omnibus film 667 will be making its premiere at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) next month. The lauded Korean film festival will take place from Oct 12 to Oct 21.

Executive produced by local film-maker Royston Tan, the anthology film was specially commissioned by the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) as part of the inaugural SCCC Cultural Extravaganza this May. The film sees the collective efforts of five rising Singaporean film-makers – Kirsten Tan, He Shuming, Liao Jiekai, Eva Tang and Jun Chong – employ a range of dialects such as Teochew, Hainanese, Hokkien, Cantonese, and Hakka in their respective short films reflecting Singapore’s Chinese cultural roots.

Tan told Channel NewsAsia that both he and the five film-makers all feel incredibly “honoured” to show at Busan.

“Especially since it’s a film that is the first of its kind in Singapore,” he said. “That’s something all the directors cherish and appreciate.”

“It is even more significant for this film to be in because this was one of the projects Mr Kim Ji-Seok really wanted to be included before he passed away,” added Tan.

A founding member and the deputy director of BIFF, 57-year-old Kim suffered a fatal heart attack during the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Tan said that 667 will be dedicated to Kim, in honour of his commitment and devotion to Asian cinema.

“Without him, many of the Singaporean directors would not have been discovered on the world film festival circuit,” he said. “It has been very moving for me. He saw 667 and loved it. Three days later, he passed away in Cannes.”

Tan also highlighted that being part of BIFF was also important to show audiences in Korea the “different sides of Singapore”.

“I think it shows diversity. As well as the fact that we are doing what we can to preserve our heritage… The Chinese in Singapore are made up of different dialect groups and that has always been in our DNA,” he explained. “So it’s a rediscovery of ourselves. And also a rediscovery for foreigners when they see Singaporean-Chinese”.

He continued: “The film is a personal journey and an introspection by our five filmmakers as they explore different aspects of Singapore’s Chinese culture and how they relate to it. The team is excited to continue sharing our unique culture with international audience at BIFF.”

With the main aim to weave together the past and present as generations seek to understand, appreciate, preserve and pass on our heritage, 667 was screened in Singapore on May 25 to critical acclaim. Members of the public who missed this earlier screening will get the opportunity to catch the film when SCCC hosts additional ticketed screenings from Sept 23 to Sept 24 at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre Auditorium.

Kirsten Tan whose contribution in the anthology is reinterpreting the classic and popular 15-minute Teochew opera/play Wu Song Sha Sao told Channel NewsAsia in an earlier interview that an omnibus like this “showcases the diversity of languages found just within the Chinese culture”.

“In Singaporean films, the language often used is monolingual - it’s strictly in English, in Mandarin, or in Malay,” she previously said. “But the reality is that Singapore is a multicultural and multilingual society. It would be great to see that variety reflected onscreen. It frees up the way we think about language usage in cinema here.”

Source: CNA/gl