Looking back, when the critics were labelling filmmaker Royston Tan as the enfant terrible of local cinema, it seemed a premature assessment of the man. Sure, his controversial feature film, 15, about five teenagers in the seamy underground showed the less than pristine side of Singapore, but upon closer inspection, Tan’s film documented the overlooked aspects of what makes us Singapore.
Fast forward to a decade later: Tan has come from being the bad boy of local cinema to become an unlikely champion of Singapore’s heritage. With no hint of pretension or grandeur, he comes across as sincere when he shares about using his films to capture the historic parts of Singapore before they get demolished, I’m not a government official and have no authority to prevent these places from being demolished; but as a filmmaker, I can film the locations and it will be captured on a medium that will last a long time,” he says.
MEN’S FOLIO: What motivates you to create the next project?
ROYSTON TAN: This will probably sound like a bimbo answer, but every time I shoot a film, I lose weight so it’s a good workout for me (laughs). But in all seriousness, I think Singapore is at a very interesting stage now. We’re experiencing another round of transformation and I felt that I have to shoot as much as I can now because in the next 10 years, Singapore may not be a place that I can recognise anymore. For instance, when I watch Eric Moo’s Mee Pok Man or 12 Storeys, I’m surprised that some of the sights and sounds don’t exist anymore. It’s almost like a catalogue of our country’s taste and sentiments at a certain point in time. I want my body of work to be like a time capsule of a particular era.
The full article was published in the Aug 13 issue.