「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


At the movies

By Tan Ying Zhen


Are you going overseas this winter vacation?

For one of my friends, the itinerary must include this: watching a movie in the cinema.

She said, "Watching a movie with the locals offers you a peek into a country's culture." I agree. I remember my first movie experience in Kyoto, when I was surprised by how everyone waited until the end of the credits before leaving. In Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei (three other cities where I've watched movies), most people got ready to leave once the credits started to roll.

A friend who studied Thai in university told me about her movie experience in Bangkok. Before the movie started, everyone stood as the national anthem was played. It was a sign of the Thai people's devotion to their king.

"I'd learned in class about how much the Thai people respected their king," she said, "but seeing that really drove home the message."

Going to the cinema is a revelation in itself. Watching a local movie intensifies the experience. Imagine listening to the local language, perhaps without the help of subtitles. Which jokes do you find funny? Do the locals laugh at the same things as you? What do you notice about the fashion and decor? A gigantic screen in a dark cinema may amplify things you've otherwise overlooked while sightseeing.

Unfortunately, it's not always easy to catch a local movie, because not every country has a booming movie industry. Singapore, for instance, typically has fewer than five local movies screening in the commercial cinemas every year.

So when my Japanese friend first asked me to recommend some Singaporean movies, I was at a loss for words. It was a few years ago, and back then, most Singaporean movies available on DVD were characterized by slapstick humour and portrayed a narrow view of Singapore. There were some great works, but those were usually difficult to get.

You can imagine my delight when a Singaporean movie, Ilo Ilo, won the Audience Award at the recent Tokyo Filmex. The story, which is based on the director's childhood, is deceptively simple. Set in Singapore during the 1997 financial crisis, it shows us the bond between a 10-year-old boy and his domestic helper from Iloilo, a province in the Philippines.

Ilo Ilo has picked up notable awards in Cannes and at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards, the equivalent of the Oscars for movies in Chinese. It will apparently be screened in Japan next year. I've already watched it in Singapore, but I'd love to watch it a second time in Japan. Perhaps watching a movie from your home country while overseas will be as interesting as watching a foreign movie in the country it was made.



The Japan Times ST: December 27, 2013

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