SINGAPORE: To honour local classics and their artistry, the 28th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) will be celebrating the 15th anniversary of two iconic made-in-Singapore films – Jack Neo’s I Not Stupid as well as Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen’s TalkingCock The Movie – under its Singapore Panorama section.
Both films are considered local pioneers in the social satire genre, with a social commentary bolstered by authentic on-screen portrayals of Singapore that perfectly captured the zeitgeist when it was released in 2002.
Whether it was Woo and Goh’s irreverent Singlish imaginings of local archetypes, or Neo’s allegory for the social realities of modern day Singapore and criticism of the intense education system, both films stood out from the usual cinematic offerings at that time.
I Not Stupid and TalkingCock The Movie may have been very different in construction and presentation, but the intention was the same. Both dared to poke good-natured fun at Singaporeans, their obsessions and local politics, an approach rarely seen in Singapore cinema at that time.
“Local social satire was at its infancy then and I Not Stupid and TalkingCock The Movie struck a chord with the local audience because these films were one of the first (movies) that engaged with subjects close to the hearts of Singaporeans in a humorous but honest lens,” said SGIFF executive director Yuni Hadi. “This approach sparked discussions and created a relevance to the role of Singapore film.”
I Not Stupid – a comedy about the trials and tribulations of three Primary 6 boys placed in the academically inferior education stream – was a major box office success. It received international recognition when it won the Best Chinese film at the Golden Bauhinia Awards as well as Best Chinese Humanitarian Film at the 2002 Taiwan Golden Torch Awards. It was also nominated for Best Asian Film at the 2003 Hong Kong Film Awards.
“While the film was produced to reflect the reality of our education system and how it affects the communication between parent and child, it also surpassed our expectations and received positive acknowledgement beyond our shores, especially in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, where I Not Stupid is currently being used as teaching material,” said Neo.
“It is an honour to have created an iconic film to document Singapore’s education system and we never thought the film could have such a lasting and far-reaching impact when we made it," he said.
"The story of I Not Stupid remains strongly relevant today as it spotlights the relationships between parent-child that transcend time and we hope its screening during this year’s Singapore International Film Festival will continue to evoke the same emotions it did more than a decade ago.”
For husband-and-wife creative team Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen, TalkingCock The Movie was based on their website TalkingCock.com. From 2000 to 2010, TalkingCock.com was Singapore’s first full-bore satirical website, during which it chalked up millions of page views, a best-selling dictionary, video games, made it onto Wikileaks and got debated in Parliament. It also spawned the movie – the couple’s first full-length feature – which was nominated for the Altadis New Directors Award.
“To be honest, we didn’t know what we were doing with TalkingCock. We had a cast of 109 amateur actors! But the film was special precisely because of that freewheeling ‘heck-care’ spirit,” said both Woo and Goh in a combined statement. “It was the best film school one could ask for, and we learned so much.”
Both Woo and Goh went on to helm the international award-winning feature film Singapore Dreaming, and most recently, create Dim Sum Warriors, a bilingual comic book series about kung fu-fighting dumplings. It has since been turned into a musical produced by Stan Lai, one of China’s most renowned theatre directors, scored by Pulitzer prize-winning composer Du Yun and opened to a sold-out crowd in Shanghai.
This year’s SGIFF will run from Nov 23 to Dec 3 across various venues, including Marina Bay Sands, Shaw Theatres Lido, National Museum of Singapore, National Gallery Singapore, The Arts House, Filmgarde Bugis+, Objectifs and *SCAPE.
An event of the Singapore Media Festival and hosted by Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), the 28th SGIFF will also be introducing a new theme – Asian spy genre – as part of the festival’s first thematic Classics section. It will collaborate with Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information to present films from the genre’s formative years between 1950s and 1980s, including Singapore’s very own Gerak Kilat (1966) by Jamil Sulong.