Staying home more? Watch local films!
By Rachel Yap, Editor
Just a month ago, I watched the South Korean film Parasite make history at the Oscars as they took home four awards. It was even more heartwarming to know how important this was to South Koreans as they cried tears of joy over this successful cultural breakthrough into the world.
With its overwhelming success across the world, it is only natural to know how many people around me were just as starstruck by this film as these South Koreans. However, upon reflecting on the South Koreans’ collective joy and pride towards their local films, I realized how this was a very uncommon sight in Singapore.
As I was having dinner with my family, everyone was excitedly telling me all about Parasite and how representative it was of South Korean society and culture. However, when I asked if they had watched the latest Singaporean film Wet Season by Anthony Chen, everyone was confused, “huh? Never heard of it before… Korean movie ah?”
I know this was just a simple conversation with my family, but it got me thinking about the diminishing value of Singaporean films attributed to an increasing openness to foreign culture and arts. The stark comparison between the response by South Koreans over their local films and the lack of support and attention to our Singaporean films vividly portrays how Singaporean films are struggling to make an impact on our population as they continue to live in the shadows of other movies that emerge.
The reason why I say this is because Singapore/local films account for less than 5% of our total box office in Singapore, whereby Hollywood and blockbuster movies dominate the cinemas with much bigger budgets that appeal to Singaporeans. As compared to our Asian neighbours, 5% is disappointingly low when we see how South Korea’s local films and India’s local films make up 70% and 90% of their own box office respectively.
The low figures in the box office give the impression of a losing appeal for local films, a diminishing national pride in our homegrown film talent. This makes me disappointed because I grew up with local films. I grew up watching Homerun, I Not Stupid 1 and 2 by Jack Neo, Singaporean horror films like The Maid, Ah Boys To Men 1, 2 and 3, 23:59 (just to name a few) and I loved each and every one of them.
I felt a sense of belonging.
I understood the humour without a doubt because of the unique blend of dialects and Singlish that most of us grew up speaking.
I could relate to it as these films more often touched on many local issues and experiences that only we Singaporeans and locals can understand and empathize, the same way Parasite did to South Korea.
I would say the local film is the one thing that best expresses the unique Singaporean cultural identity in such an artistic cinematographic way. It also brings generations together as these films are often passed down from generation to generation as films are permanent and can never truly go away.
And I think to myself, what would life be if we didn’t have any of these films anymore? Where else can we see a representation of ourselves on the screen that truly and accurately reflects Singapore? Where else can local filmmakers tell their stories of Singapore? I think most of us may feel that life just goes on but it shouldn’t.
At least for me, I don’t want to imagine what life would be without our homegrown films in the future - and this is where all of us can come together to change this
One way for us to keep our local film scene going is to show support for our local films.
We can first start by appreciating and feeling proud of the films directed and acted by our local talent. This, of course, requires us to take the initiative to watch our local movies to better understand them. With individual efforts to better support them through monetary efforts and increasing receptiveness towards local movies, we can collectively gain a sense of national pride and identity and further encourage the production of local films and popularise these films beyond our borders.
I hope that one day, foreign movies like Parasite will not be the only talk of the town but our local productions as well.
I hope that one day, everyone will be able to hold the same sentiments and pride that I feel towards local films.
So, while you are staying home more amidst the coronavirus outbreak, roll the local films and munch on assorted peanuts to reminiscence kacang puteh.
Rachel Yap is a Year 1 political science major who is currently a Commentary Editor for The Convergence. She believes in the importance of knowledge and awareness in current affairs and hopes that every contribution can be a step forward in understanding the world we live in today. When she’s not writing, she’s probably watching Netflix, speaking broken Japanese or trying to be the next Masterchef in her kitchen as she rethinks about her priorities in life.