Southeast Asia Film Lab: Emerging Singaporean Filmmakers Shine

The next generation of Singaporean filmmakers are displaying the rich tapestry of the city-state’s culture at the Southeast Asian Film Lab, which is part of the Singapore Media Festival.

Shopping malls are an integral part Singaporean culture. Dewi Tang, an anthropology-and-environmental science graduate, finds them endlessly fascinating. The filmmaker’s lab project “Practical(ly) Consumption,”The script is currently in development. This story follows a secondary schoolboy who steals a grocery trolley.

“Malls are more than a space to hang out or get your daily needs, it is also a place of self-discovery that often project and engineer societal ideals,”Tan told Variety. “In many ways, this film is an experimental and exploratory take on the essence of the Singaporean hunger for endless consumption – a meandering piece that’s ‘something about nothing’ in an air-conditioned sanctuary, amidst an inescapable urban heat.”

Tan made the LGBTQ+-themed short previously. “The Cycle” (2017), which received considerable festival play and in 2018, attended Werner Herzog’s film workshop where he brought 48 international filmmakers to the Peruvian jungle location for “Fitzcarraldo”Films based on fever dreams are possible.

Chan Sze Wei comes from a background in contemporary dance. He has directed several short dance-based films and has been mentored dance filmmakers such as Alex Reuben and Gabriela tropia. Sun Phaefuang, a fellow dancer, asked Chan if he knew anyone who would be interested in making a documentary on the ballroom subculture and vogue in Southeast Asia. Chan accepted the offer and began filming “I Am Walking,”Another lab option is available.

“This is the project that I’ve been preparing for my whole life without knowing it – as a dance filmmaker, as an arts journalist and researcher on Southeast Asia, as a queer activist, and as a movement activist using choreography and improvisation to question politics and privilege,”Chan told Variety. “At the same time, I have been on my own long journey with my sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Production of “I Am Walking,”This film, which follows four misfits on their quest to create safe spaces for queer folks, was halted by the pandemic. Filming will resume in 2022.

Giselle Lin’s short, the grief-themed “Time Flows in Strange Ways on Sundays,”This project was first presented at Locarno, Italy earlier in the year. It was nominated and awarded the Leopards of Tomorrow Award. Her lab project “Midnight Blue Spring,”The story, which is still being conceptualized and written, tells the story of a lonely secondary school teacher in Singapore, who counsels one of the students while simultaneously knowing that she is the teenage daughter her first girlfriend. This situation forces the teacher to face long-held regrets and confront her sexuality.

“Deep down I also always knew my first feature would be this, and while I’m really grateful to be able to work on it, I am also terrified,”Lin shared the following: Variety. “This is a story that draws from my own struggles with sexual identity and growing pains, and after winding it in my head (and heart) for 10 years, it’s scary to finally see it as something else other than just a secret.”

Edwin (Locarno-winner) mentors the Southeast Asia Film Lab. “Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash”), Thailand’s Taiki Sakpisit (Rotterdam winner “The Edge of Daybreak”) and Singapore’s Tan Chui Mui (Busan winner “Love Conquers All”).

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Dewi Tan, Chan Sze-Wei, Giselle Lin
Singapore Media Festival

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