"Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances." -- Sanford Meisner


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Friday, August 29, 2014

Penghulu

Utter 2013. Penghulu. Adapted from Pak Suleh (from Penghulu) by Suratman Markasan. Director: Lilian Wang.


This was my first gig in Malay, and since then, I had done other such roles in several short films, including one for Utter 2014.

Thankfully, I still remember enough of the language to plod my way with in Malay. My earliest encounter with the language was when I was four years old, when I watched "Bahasa Kenbangsaan" (National Language) on TV, just before the cartoon telecast. In my school days, everyone had to study Malay - our National Language (and still is)! :) Back then, Chinese people mostly spoke Malay to the other races and among themselves, they spoke their own Southern Chinese dialects of Teochew, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese,... etc. Only the folks in Chinese medium schools spoke Mandarin, and then, in its uncorrupted form! 

I am glad to have lived through the era of linguistic diversity in Singapore. There was more character and the different languages curiously relay emotions specific to each ethnic group.

Then in the late 70s, there were grand efforts by the government to standardise the spoken language among the Chinese to Mandarin; while English rapidly moved to centre stage. By 1980, Malay was relegated to be spoken mostly among the Malays.

Today, young Chinese speaks only Mandarin and English (well kinda, more so Singlish). Japanese, Korean and other Asian language dramas are allowed on TV, but not Chinese dialect dramas. Mandarin is now officially my 'mother tongue', though my mother doesn't speak a word of Mandarin. Meanwhile people from China now purportedly speak better mother tongue than I do in my mother country Singapore. Isn't it funny?! lol




The 1970s was also the era when many Singaporeans were evicted from their kampong dwellings of attap huts and patchy agricultural subsistence, to (in comparison) sterile government built apartments that now dots the Singapore skyline. Those were major changes to move from literally living on the ground to living in suspended concrete dwellings in the sky.

"Penghulu" depicts such maladjustments of a village chief, who laments the change and the lost of his familiar casual and happier days in the village. I like the screenplay very much as it captured the slow soothing life of the Penghulu and contrasts it to his mundane and sedate life in the modern apartment.

Nostalgia is sweet, however be careful... as it can also rob us of our present.


Here is the trailer for this year's Singapore Writer's Festival...



If you like to watch some of my Hokkien short films, click here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Afterimages


Production company: Mythopolis Pictures. Producer: Genevieve Woo. Director: Tony Kern.


















"Afterimages"  is one of the few Singapore-made horror movies screening this year. 
It will premiere on the 10th of September 2014 in Singapore - just after the Chinese Seventh Month for the Hungry Ghosts.  

I haven't watched them yet, but will do so on the 10th.




Quiz:
A FREE pair of tickets will be given to whoever answers ALL the following 5 questions correctly AND register his/her email address (near the top of page of this blog).

[1] How many 'short stories from Hell' are there in "Afterimages"?

[2] When will "Afterimages" be screened to the public?

[3] Name the famous radio DJ who is in the movie?

[4] Which is the other horror movie Tony Kern directed? 

[5] Which floor did the female character in the movie jumped down from?

EMAIL YOUR ANSWERS, YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS & MOBILE PHONE NUMBER TO: mysticmichael@gmail.com

This quiz is only opened to people based in Singapore or can make it to the Premiere.

Date: 10th SEP 2014
Time: 9PM
Place: Cathay Cinema, Handy Road, Singapore.
 
There are only 3 pairs of tickets up for grabs. Hurry!

CLOSING DATE FOR QUIZ: 7TH SEPTEMBER 2014.




For more information about the movie, click here.






Monday, August 11, 2014

Jasmine

This is a short story of a taxi driver uncle and his tipsy girlfriend from China, heading for the local "mama shop"; thereafter giving the mama a difficult time and making a mess of his place.

"Mama shops" are the little Indian neighbourhood convenient stalls commonly found in Singapore. "Mama" means 'uncle' in Tamil.

This is a fun 4-minute video, directed by Dylan Tan and Caleb Lee as the DP.

The shop has character, complete with real Indian flower garlands. Nothing there were film props! :)


As luck had it, while we were filming, there was another show going on nearby - a getai - a street concert staged during the Chinese Seventh Month Hungry Ghost Festival. Isn't the cultural diversity wonderful in Singapore? :)

Capturing clean sound was hell though! 



And here is everyone in the team...



I will post the finished works here when it is available. Watch this space. Or you can follow this blog by email and you will be informed of any updates.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kopi-O Kosong

This a film made under Singapore's Cine65 Mentorship Programme 2014, where four scripts are chosen among many applications. Each group of students is to produce a film that expresses the Singaporean identity, mentored by an industry veteran.

Kopi-O Kosong is a Singaporean term for Black Coffee without milk and sugar. There are plenty of variations as to how you want your coffee to be in Singapore. It is quite involved and complicated and would require a separate post altogether.

Here is the short film...






Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Wine Kaki This Week




Kaki means 'leg' in Malay. However, "Wine Kaki" does not mean 'Wine Leg', but 'Wine Buddy'. Similarly, "Hentak Kaki" does not mean 'Shock Leg', but about one 'hitting the glass ceiling'. Wine making is my other love next to acting and film making. :)

This week, I share my grape wine with my friend Gillian Tan at Tiong Bahru, after the shoot for the Singapore Writer's Festival's "Tin Kosong", directed by Saniff Olek.








Here's a trailer of Utter 2014, which "Tin Kosong" is part of.



Watch this space for the next edition of "My Wine Kaki This Week!"


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Speak Good English Movement

My blog post "Slang, Lingo and Colloquialism" has got me invited to the launch of the "Speak Good English Movement" on the 28th May 2014. The Movement, probably unique to Singapore, emphasizes the use of proper standard English. 

Singapore is a country comprising many races, languages and dialects. When I was a kid, I spoke mostly Chinese dialects, no Mandarin and some English and Malay. Fast forward forty years and the government had since rationalised the Chinese language to mean Mandarin and the common language among all races to be English. However, given the interesting cocktail of languages spoken locally, English as it is spoken soon slipped sloppily into Singlish. And now Singlish has taken into a life on its own and by its current form has already become mostly unintelligible to foreigners. This is what got the government worried and hence, the Movement.


I have lived and worked in Europe, Africa, Australia and different parts of Asia. For me then, it was essential to speak a form of English that is understood by everyone - sometimes I even slow down and pick simpler words when I communicate with non-native speakers.

However, when it comes to films, the debate is not just whether it should merely communicate with the  audience, but also portray the culture as it is - untainted.

The argument is whether standard English, or for that matter, standard Mandarin, or any other standard languages ought to be used instead of their localised forms. Recently, a seasoned film maker told me that any film made strictly in any standard language will not be watched by many people because nobody speaks purely in any standard language in real life. He cited that even Hollywood films do not speak standard English, but their own form including many slangs and colloquialisms.

I do agree, but I think Hollywood also knows that if they do go overboard with their slangs and colloquialisms, then they are also likely to lose their audience. So I suspect that they do choose their words carefully to portray the local culture but also to make sure that they are intelligible to non-native speakers.

I guess the secret lies in the balance. That is, what language subsets should I use such that I project the local culture while I make the film understood by the critical mass. And it will be a bonus, if the lingo chosen, though not universal, would sound catchy and smooth enough to start a new trend.





Monday, May 19, 2014

Film Review - Filial Party



I managed to squeeze some time out today to watch "Filial Party", as I have promised Boris Boo, the director, that I will do so.

I was suitably entertained by the well researched local stories that I think the heartlanders and common people in Singapore would relate very well to. They are little stories surrounding parents, children's emotional baggage of their parents passed and living, money, materialism, middle-age joblessness, old age senility, extra-marital affairs... etc.  All told through big comedy expressions popular in Malaysia and Singapore.

In think Boris' jokes are a little more subtle and less slapstick as those of Jack Neo, a local film maker who has consistently scored at the box office.  I like the dialogue of mixed languages of English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Malay and Tamil - that offers the feel of street level Singapore. However, I wonder if those outside Malaysia and Singapore would be able to follow the dialogue or would find the linguistic cocktail amusing enough to embrace. For more about the use of standard language or otherwise, click here.

In short, the story is about a reality show that requires its participants to demonstrate their filial piety to their parents - in the process going through the sub-plots of sob stories and dilemmas - many of which question the moral fabric of today's society.

Lastly, like many other local productions, product placements are strong in this movie and one can certainly be forgiven for thinking of it as a Prudential Show at some point. A bit of subtlety would have been helpful, as research shows that subliminal advertising is way more effective. Perhaps the sponsors did not see it that way.

Overall, I think the movie is much better than what was said in the Straits Times film review. I like my film to both entertain and inspire, and that I think "Filial Party" has achieved!

How many star rating?
I don't know. I never believed in stars.