Four Movies And A Day

This is about a day when I watched four movies in a row. Nothing special.

I can’t remember if I have ever done this before. Sure, I probably had done three movies in a day (across different locations!) during Singapore Film Festival decade ago when it was THE occasion to catch movies unlikely to get commercial release in Singapore. These days, there were far more opportunities to access non-commercial work.

I think I will miss the curation of SIFA when it changes hand from next year onwards. The O.P.E.N. film last year was a great feast for me to just wander into any previously unknown films whenever I could find time. This year, one ticket restricts you to six screening. Still, it is a steal.

So I found myself booked for only one movie on 08.07.17 but ended watching four that day.



This was the one I registered prior to the screening, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it awed. It set out to be theme-less, thus untitled. Yet, the incidental sequence revealed more depths of life on this planet than any themed work that I have ever come across. The co-existence of brutality and beauty life presents itself in the journey taken by the film maker across the dark continent had me holding my breathes throughout the film.

Quite a number of reviews available online, e.g. this one.


Autumn, Autumn (Chuncheon, Chuncheon)

AT and CN texted me that they were both catching this, which made me decide to stay on at The Projector to continue. Another reason was that I did registered for the closing film this year which was a Korean film. By this bizarre association, I found myself interested in checking out this Korean film as well.

It turned out to be alright. It was made up of stories of two protagonists taking place in the same location. It was full of undercurrent of sadness, beneath the seemingly mundane conversations they had with other characters along their paths.

I did enjoy it but friends (AT and CN included) I spoken with outside the movie theatre were mostly underwhelmed.


Railway Sleepers

CN pre-registered this because she was a self-professed railway geek. I joined in because (a) AT and CN were staying on, thus providing momentum to me; (b) I have always enjoyed journey on railways, which possibly made me a closeted railway geek; (c) I’ve always enjoyed my holiday trip to Thailand; (d) I have recently watched Pop Aye – a road movie took place in Thailand by a Singaporean film maker, and loved it.

I did enjoy it though it did not shake me up like Untitled. For me, its main merits lie in capturing the glimpses of the country from south to north, without many spoken words. It took years to make, covering the entire railway network across the country. These days, I have great admiration for work made with great patience.

It made me wonder how interesting it would be for a film maker to document Singapore in similar manner – via journeys on MRT across the island.


The Dreamed Path

CN decided against staying for this one. AT decided to join me.

Like Autumn, Autumn, this was also consists of stories about two protagonists. It has such unconventional, refreshing way of informing audience about the emotional states of the characters … by landing cameras on the reactions of people surrounding the protagonists instead of the later.   I was truly engaged in the first protagonist’s journey. Somehow the camera language did not develop further enough in the second half for me.

AT and I went for supper after the show. AT looked at this one from a D.H.Lawrence-ial  points of view. That was intriguing to me. I was looking at it purely from a rather restraint story telling technique.


So that was the day when I watched four movies. Thanks S.I.F.A 2017!




11月26日 - Body X








12月4日 - 妈妈的箱子









Beasts Within Us


Part I

I instinctively told myself he was not Oliver when I spotted him as I stepped inside the wooden hut constructed just outside of Marina Bay Sand’s main entrance. He was, in that moment and space, an actor performing a role in this durational performance in SIFA 2016 entitled Time Between Us.

I walked around the hut before entering it. Its wooden wall was chalk-scribbled words that I later found out to be part of texts by Fernando Rubio – the Argentine artist who created this piece with Oliver. I peeked through the windows of the hut and saw some people inside the hut. I walked in and saw Oliver (who was not Oliver) and some other random people. There were more chalk scribbles inside the hut, a bed, benches and some photographs pinned to the wall. Oliver (who was not Oliver) moved about in the hut quietly. So were the others. I sat down on the bench intending to soak in the ambience but a lady took out her phone and placed it inches from my shoulder to take a photo of the chalk scribble behind me. She was oblivious to my discomfort of such closeness and stayed there for quite a while trying to secure the best picture she could take with her phone camera. She finally moved away and I managed to sit there watching people outside the hut looking into the hut on me, Oliver (who was not Oliver) and other random people. It was not long before Oliver (who was not Oliver) walked to the door and said to everyone: thank you, while pointing towards the outdoor. We stood up and left the hut. End of Part I.

Part II

Oliver (who was not Oliver) shut the door behind us. I looked up the performance schedule and learnt that there would be a conversation between Oliver (who was not Oliver) and Natalie Hennedige – Artistic Director of Cake Theatrical Production, in 30 minutes time. At some point I ran into Oliver’s wife, PS, who told me there were still tickets available at the door for the conversation. I bought one and was brought into the hut again when the time arrived.

Hennedige came in with a small suitcase after all audience took our seats. She sat in front of Oliver (who was not Oliver) and started by explaining her plan to work with Oliver using some props she brought with her and some characters she prepared, as well as her usual process of working with actors. It might have been a minute or so into her explanation when Oliver (who was not Oliver) abruptly asked: who are you talking to? Hennedige looked surprised but swiftly pointed to a scribble on the wall which wrote: Oliver Chong. That moment seemed to reveal a mismatch between whom Hennedige was expecting to meet (actor Oliver Chong) vs who was in that moment (Oliver, who was not Oliver). It set me wondering what was the brief given to both. Subsequently, this session did not go smoothly, to neither party nor this audience. Hennedige tried hard to convince Oliver (who was not Oliver) to proceed with some actions/texts she prepared for her characters. Oliver (who was not Oliver) seemed to struggle for quite a while before deciding to go along with Hennedige’s instructions. Even then, he was merely executing the instructions in near robotic manners. Props which Hennedige prepared included a wig, a piece of clean white under-pant, a red lipstick which she used to write ‘Save Me’ on Oliver’s (who was not Oliver) body after he took off his t-shirt on her instruction, as well as a small container of ping pong balls in various colours. I remembered her characters and texts were related to topic of suicide. It was apparent to me that Hennedige was planning to have a ‘conversation’ with actor Oliver, but instead getting Oliver (who was not Oliver) responding to her characters.

Finally a series of quick knocks heard on the door. That was the cue for Hennedige to pick up her suitcase (which she packed in all the props she brought) and stood to leave. She turned before exiting to say: Good Luck to Oliver (who was not Oliver). She said something further to the effect that she thought it was great Oliver was doing this performance but she doubted she herself would be able to stay in this hut for five days without turning suicidal. End of part II.

Part III

Oliver (who was not Oliver) shut the door behind us. I looked up the performance schedule and learnt that there would be a performance on texts by Fernando Rubio. I bought a ticket and waited for the daily light show on Marina Bay to be over before being let into the hut again.

After audience took the seats, Oliver (who was not Oliver) grabbed a camera hung on the wall and took a picture of a random audience. He pulled out the instant photo and pinned it onto the wall. He took a chalk and scribbled more texts onto the walls, before starting his verbal delivery. According to the performance introduction material:

He tells a story reflecting upon the place where he once belonged, the different ways to leave it behind and observe it, the passing of time and events, and the transformations that may be possible. 

It was not an easy text to digest, as it was not a linear narrative. The text was poetic, and not entirely conversational. Some transcript of the text can be found in Ng Yi-Sheng’s blog here.

While the text was rather non-Oliver, the delivery was. The way he broke the sentences. Crisp. Matter-of-fact-ly. Made me stayed alert to try catching every word. Not always successful. I was seeing both actor Oliver and Oliver (who was not Oliver) in the space. It reminded me what Hennedige said during her conversation session earlier, in her attempt to persuade Oliver (who was not Oliver) to go along with her plan, that an actor will always carry a part of themselves on stage no matter what characters they are playing.


Yet there was an unfamiliar depth/range of emotions which I didn’t remember seeing in Oliver’s past performances. Not fully grounded yet, but refreshing. At one point in the text, he walked to me and placed his hand on my shoulder and said: I’m alright. In that split second, I was debating if I should respond as a friend of actor Oliver or an audience of Oliver (who was not Oliver). I decided on the later and looked back to him quietly.

He continued and increasingly emotional. At some point, he wept. He had that familiar controlled craft of actor Oliver while also moments of letting go. Moments of unleashing a beast within him. Moments.

What triggered that? The text? The space? The duration? The watching of people inside and outside of the hut for 5 days?

The storytelling ended when Oliver (who was not Oliver) opened the door and sent us all outside. He reappeared on top of the hut and shouted to us: It doesn’t end here!

End of Part III.


There was a huge crowd outside of the hut catching Pokemon throughout my visit to the performance. I managed to catch three new Pokemon for my collection while waiting to enter the hut for the performance. It was the first time I witness the size of mass gathering lured by Pokemon Go. As I wormed through the crowd with faces lit up by their mobile phone, I wondered what sort of beasts were hidden inside them.

PS. The following song was played by Oliver (who was not Oliver) on his laptop during his storytelling session.

While We Shed Our Skin …


In the span of 48 hours within a week, I attended two performances on ‘euthanasia’ (Wikipedia: Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering). The haunting Ibsen:Ghosts by Markus&Markus in this S.I.F.A 2016 had tracing the journey of euthanasia of an individual human life. The meditative IgnorLAND of its Loss by Drama Box had me and other individuals tracing the journey of euthanasia of a residential estate.

Living on an island nicknamed as ‘little red dot’ could easily make one generalises that everyone here share identical living environments. Drama Box’s IgnorLAND series provide apt reminders that despite its petite size, this island mirrors global trend of great divides among its residents beyond visible borders or walls.

While the past installations of IgnorLAND zoomed into communities still existing (Geylang, Bukit Ho Swee) or historic (Nanyang University), IgnorLAND Of Its Loss took us for the first time to one that is in the process of vanishing – Dakota Crescent, whose residents live in rented public housing properties built in 1950s.

Not only were the audience got to wander through the gradually deserted neighbourhood of old-school architecture, the engagement of the residents (instead of artists) to deliver several segments of guided tours gave the experience a texture of living cells instead of fossils.

An old man played ‘tok tok’ as timekeeper for audience to move from one tour station to the next. An old lady pushed a shopping cart around in a short play. A young lady shared photos she took in her neighbourhood over the years. A man guided tour inside the community service centre, sharing activities organized for the elderly residents and incidents of their daily lives. Even incidental peeping of other residents passing by as well as music spilling out from living room of some apartment units provided feel of a pulsating heart to this audience.

All these are scheduled to vanish come end of 2016. Residents would be relocated and buildings torn down, probably making way for new and more densely populated residential properties offering riverside living and commanding higher economic value. The aging buildings are becoming less and less competent in supporting needs of the aging residents (with frequent lifts failure and their spare parts of old model having to be shipped from abroad). It is year 2016 and Singapore is still blessed with a highly effective and efficient government, who not only ensure that the residents would be relocated to public housing with newer infrastructure but also ensuring the streets of Dakota Crescent remained impeccably clean and well-lit as the dwellers have started vacating.

In Ibsen:Ghosts by Markus&Markus, Margot who lived the last decade of her life with great physical pains and solitude, signed up for euthanasia before she became too dependent and inconvenient to others. During the final weeks leading up to the appointment, members of Markus&Markus visited her everyday to document the preparations she/they put together. At one point, Margot joked that if there were people visiting her so frequently, she might reverse her decision on euthanasia.

If more people have frequented Dakota Crescent, would the decision on its future be different? How did it get forgotten initially? Has it fulfilled its mission and no longer serving any purposes? Could it be given new meaningful mission? Would it still worth preserving under the new mission? Is this an ideal neighbourhood renewal process? Just like how living things shed the layer of skin that used to protect them but lost its function after prolonged weathering? What do we grow in our new skin?

Life of a person (e.g. Margot) or community (e.g. Dakota Crescent) can vanish from the surface of the earth and merely be accepted as law of nature. Or we can ask questions. Questions such as:- Are we Margot? Are we Dakota Crescent? Have we become Margot and Dakota Crescent? Have we made someone around us Margot and Dakota Crescent? What are our relationship with our Margot and Dakota Crescent?

Sometime, a production such as IgnorLAND of its Loss make you think of those questions.

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Parallel Universe of WTFs

A dream world where logic and reason do not exist.
Moral-less, rule-less, borderless and timeless.
Intrusions summoned, intrusions uninvited.
A collective journey, alone.

That’s the synopsis of Intrusions.

In the real world where as members of human species sharing a single, increasingly crowded planet with other members, we are conditioned to behave based on logic and reasons with each other to avoid the world plunging into self-destruction (e.g. don’t kill others, don’t litter, don’t make killer litters, etc). Or so we have been taught.

But in the real world, the logic and reasons vary from INDIVIDUAL to INDIVIDUAL. On my way to work one morning, the crammed train I managed to squeeze myself in had a sudden brake. Every standing passengers bumped into each other while trying to find our balance. I apologised to the lady next to me after our shoulders briefly touched in the course of our re-balancing acts, and was stunned to see daggers flying out of her eyes. I was certain I would have been dead then if she happen to have a spear in her hand. It was one of those WTF moments in our daily lives. From my point of view, as well as the lady’s.

So often these WTF feelings we have against each other originate from our logic and reasons. Living in this era, I find myself bombarded by these WTF feelings everyday on the social media. There seems to be no running away from them except when I am asleep, or even dreaming.

Or inside a theatre. A space safe enough for creators and viewers to share anything, if we allow ourselves to. More often than not, we still construct a journey communicating logics and reasons. But every now and then comes a piece of work like Intrusions which does not. So wouldn’t that be a solace for us the immortals, regardless of how momentarily it was? Watching how Joavien lifted a chair with her hair and how Jean’s heartfelt confession got interrupted by a plant, made me go WTF after WTF as my logic and reasons were challenged and discarded along the way. At the end of the show, this audience find himself  less burdened as if he had shed some skins.

And I imagine it a tumultuous process to create a piece of work which defies logic and reasons that still succeeds in engaging the audience. It actually requires great logic and reasons. And honesty. So, thank you to Jean and Joavien for the invite to intrusions into your dreams. I can now think of more important and useful question such as how do ghosts in Portugal look like.






此刻,指的是本地6个主要以中文进行演出的戏剧团体(戏剧盒、实践、Toy肥料厂、猴纸、十指帮和九年)于2016年1月30日假Centre 42宣布成立‘新华剧体’联盟的消息发布会。










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When Was The Last Time You Listened To Melting Ice


I did that twice last week.

I didn’t think I was going to hear anything. It was quiet most of the time, except for sound of people moving around. Then occasionally, a splutter sliced through the dimly lit theatre.

Oh yes, we were sitting inside a theatre listening to melting ice. Hydro microphones were frozen inside 6 blocks of ice, picking up sound of air pockets as they were released as the ice melted. Another block of ice with hydro microphone was placed outdoor to pick up street sound and transmitted back into the theatre.

In For The Time Being, Darren created two worlds.

There was a world outside the theatre. Another inside.

In the world outside the theatre, lives as we knew were going on.

In the world inside the theatre, ice as the audience knew were melting away.IMG_0173

Both worlds were running in parallel.

Both man made.

Which was more artificial ? More illusionary? More mundane? More banal?

The deafening silence of the world inside, or the muted voices of the world outside?

Both worlds were opposite and yet similar. Walked through a door and you would be in the other world. So easy.

Did it matter to the world outside that ice were melting in the other world?

Did it matter to the world inside that desires were boiling in the other world?

What matters truly mattered?

IMG_0153The ice were not there to provide any answers. Nor raise these questions.

The ice were there to melt. And they melted.

I was there to listen to the melting ice. And I heard them melted. That was that.

No words. No action. No pause. No rhythm. No movement. No expression. No meaning. No purpose. No nothing.

Just a true moment of invisibility.