Gala Premiere of "7 Letters" SG50 Anthology Film At Iconic Capitol Theatre On 24 July 2015: A Landmark, One-of-a-Kind Project By Seven Eminent Singapore Filmmakers
What a great way to start a great weekend! I've attended the gala premiere of 7 Letters last night, one of the most anticipated local releases, a one-of-a-kind project celebrating Singapore’s 50th year. The screening of 7 Letters is held over three nights from 24th to 26th July 2015 and will be the first film to premiere at the iconic Capitol Theatre since its last cinema showing in 1998.
Singapore’s seven most illustrious directors including Royston Tan, Tan Pin Pin, Boo Junfeng, Eric Khoo, K Rajagopal, Jack Neo and Kelvin Tong, have gathered their creative storytelling and filmmaking talents. Each produced, wrote and directed a segment, reflecting on our social and cultural milieu. Each with their own disparate styles and cinematic voice.
7 Letters represents seven heartfelt ‘love letters’ to Singapore, capturing each of the directors’ personal and poignant connection with the place they call home. The seven stories tell of our heartland and its people through tales of lost love, identity, inter-generational familial bonds and tensions, unlikely neighbours, and even references to traditional folklore.
There are no dramatic retellings of historical events, political undertones nor propaganda in any of the seven, and that's what makes ‘7 Letters’ a pleasure to watch as it shows what makes Singapore, Singapore.
The characters, locations and stories may change but the deft mix of tones keeps ‘7 Letters’ fresh and surprising, and whenever a story seems to be losing momentum, the movie switches gears and presents something new.
Each short employs a brave honesty and simplicity that doesn’t seek to sensationalise the notion of what it means to be a Singaporean but instead uses a nuanced lens on it.
Through these films, the audience laughed, smiled, reflected and even shed a tear because each story is a reflection of our own.
The film's seven directors made a unanimous decision to sell the tickets without a fixed price. Instead, each ticketholder will be invited to make a contribution of their own during the screenings with proceeds going towards specific causes within the community.
Royston Tan, who was the lead for this SG50 project wanted to tell everyone that through this film, the seven directors want to embark on a journey to tell personal stories that will inspire all Singaporeans. This is akin to them writing a love letter to Singapore.
It is just so rare to see so many directors gathered together to work on a project. This is certainly one of its kind in the history of Singapore cinema.
Kelvin Tong’s ‘Grandma Positioning System (GPS)’ closes the anthology of the film for the night. A heartwarming story on historical consciousness, family traditions and shared memories, it depicts the story of a young boy who travels with his family to Johor each year during Qing Ming to pay respects to his late grandfather.
The boy’s grandmother insists on describing the changes in Singapore to her late husband during every visit, much to the chagrin of her family. However, the boy’s actions during a visit changes the family’s attitudes forever.
Boo Junfeng’s ‘Parting’ delves into themes of history, memory and aging. Following an elderly man who travels back to Singapore by train from Malaysia in search of lost love. Unaware of how much Singapore has changed, the elderly’s search for his former beau leads him to the now-defunct Tanjong Pagar Railway Station where he meets his younger self.
Tan Pin Pin brings her documentary sensibilities to her short, especially with her recurring themes of searching for personal histories and roots. In the short, ‘Pineapple Town’ is a road movie about a family searching for their roots, playing the documenteur in search of the truth and uncovering answers for her adopted child. In the show, she is adamant on meeting the birth mother of her adopted daughter, a search that takes her to a small town in Malaysia.
Jack Neo carries on the nostalgic route with the blithely heartwarming story about first loves in ‘That Girl’. His story is set in a kampung and follows a 12-year girl whose infatuation with a male classmate gets her into trouble with her parents. The show was delivered in Hokkien and some Cantonese, because it was the Chinse dialect spoken predominantly back in 1965 to 1975.
He puts the audience in the middle of 1970s Singapore, and invites us for a peek behind the wooden doors. The world depicted is finely detailed and shows genuine insight and not to mention entertaining too.
Eric Khoo trains his eye on the Golden Age of Malay cinema in Singapore through the poignant opening short. Like most of Khoo’s previous offerings, ‘Cinema’ spotlights his penchant for the past, especially in its respect for the traditions of Singapore’s film history and folk stories.
What’s also interesting about Khoo’s short is its movie-within-a-movie setting and parallel stories that ultimately converge. Music also plays a big part here just like in the 1950s.
Royston Tan’s story was based on songs set in the 1980s. It is about two unlikeliest of neighbours and how they communicate and understand each other through music.
Royston Tan’s ‘Bunga Sayang’ is a profusion of nostalgia and a mini musical extravaganza draped around a boy and his upstairs kueh-making muslim neighbour. ‘Bunga Sayang’ is a touching story about two unlikeliest of neighbours and how they communicate and understand each other through music.
He just wanted to remind the audience of the kampung (village) spirit, the Singapore lifestyle that we all used to have and the human connection.
Particularly stirring is K Rajagopal’s very personal ‘The Flame’, which tells the story of his parent’s life-changing decision to stay in Singapore following the British’s withdrawal from the newly independent country. Intimate and solemn, this short goes beyond the subject of immigration, touching on racial cohesion within a familial setting.
The 7-year-old boy, Toby Tan who got a golden opportunity of a lifetime to perform live on stage at the newly refurbished Capitol Theatre at the gala premiere. The little boy Toby, who started playing the piano at the age of 3, performed a five-minute piano piece - Serenade of the 7 Letters - written by Golden Horse-winning composer Ricky Ho.
The newly refurbished Capitol Theatre, commemorating the iconic theatre’s return to Singapore after a 17-year hiatus. This partnership between the majestic national icon and 7 Letters is of special significance to the directors, and is representative of the bridge between the golden age of Singapore cinema and today’s resurgence of the local film industry.
Tickets to the official three-day public premiere of SG50 film 7 Letters were snapped up within hours upon release. If you didn’t manage to get any, here’s some good news: The film will have additional screenings from 8 to 10 August 2015 at the Gallery Theatre in the National Museum of Singapore (NMS).
To be shown over the National Day weekend, there will be only one screening at 11am each day and just like the premiere, tickets will not be priced and are available on a first-come-first-served basis at the NMS front desk on 1st and 2nd August, 10am to 6pm. The public is encouraged to donate at the door, with all proceeds going to the seven beneficiaries selected by each of the filmmakers.
I sincerely hope all Singaporeans can show support for 7 Letters, an SG50 omnibus film that represents seven heartfelt ‘love letters’ to Singapore, capturing each of the director’s’ personal and poignant connection with the place they call home.