These local short films have xenophobic slurs – and it’s okay

Yeap, the government approved it.

By Mandy How |Martino Tan | April 5, 2017

Let’s be honest: chances are, we have at some point, thought unkindly of the foreigners in our country.

We find them invasive in our personal space. Loud. Inept at navigating our social norms.

As do the local characters in Together Apart — an anthology of three short films under Project Lapis Sagu, a project launched by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).

The project attracted a total of 1,209 entries, and used the well-loved kueh as a symbol of cultural diversity and social integration for its films. 

Minister Grace Fu with the cast of BMT. Photo credit: Ministry of Communications and Information.

The gala premiere of Singapore’s first crowdsourced film project was held at Shaw Lido yesterday, with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu as the Guest-of-Honour.

The films use humour and emotion to evoke reactions from its audience

Perhaps this xenophobic sentiment is the most stark in the last film, BMT: Beijing.Mumbai.Tampines, where the recruits are unable to book out for the weekend due to the perceived fault of their foreign team mates.

And so they resort to name-calling and ostracism:

Source: YouTube

MediaCorp actress Sora Ma — who was from Malaysia and an actress in MCI’s telemovie about integration last year — recalls her own uncertainties when she first came to Singapore and felt that it was “very bold and honest of [director] Kelvin Tong to stage the exchange of [such] xenophobic slurs”.

Thankfully, BMT has a happy ending, of which we shall not reveal.

Singer-songwriter Shabir Tabare Alam, who scored one of the films, appreciated the “emotional journey” of another film, Manifest. Manifest is a space movie about two astronauts — a Singaporean space engineer and a naturalised citizen — on a critical mission that ended with a shocking conclusion.

And such emotional stories about what makes Singapore unique leads us to the larger picture of what Together Apart does, which is pointing out our differences, only to highlight why they were insignificant in the face of the human condition – which in this case, is the innate desire for belonging and acceptance, especially in a world that is constantly changing.

Watch the anthology below:

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About Mandy How

Mandy is a pantry rat. She eats everything in the pantry.

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