Truth be told, the web is currently swamped with nonsensical visual content. You know, the kind of low brow TikTok nonsense influencers pump out on the daily or Mukbang videos where the hosts forget that they have the personality of drying paint.
However, our job here isn’t to diss them. Our job is to highlight content by creatives that is meaningful and evocative of real human experiences. Enter 15 shorts; a series of 15 Singapore short films that revolve around some of our nations’ heroes and their personal stories.
Some of them are tearjerkers and some of them will uplift you. Some are even going to eradicate any bigoted views you might have. In short, they’re all winners in our books.
You can catch the short films here come 19 May, 2020.
Pictured Above: Ali Baba
The Director: Randy Ang
The Plot: News reporter Augustine discovers that an injured migrant worker has been left for dead by his employer in a forest. At a time when stories on migrant workers were untold, Augustine challenges convention in the newsroom.
This film is based on the true story of Augustine Pang and other Singaporean journalists who covered the plight of migrant worker Mohd Bashar. Their stories prompted an outpouring of donations and gifts to Bashar.
The Prediction: Are you reeking of Chinese privilege and wish to rectify your “unwoke” views that you share on disgusting forums? We hope this touching and insightful film does.
The Director: Sunji
The Plot: Don is a 15-year old delinquent who is beyond parental control. Almost everyone has given up on Don, including Don himself. Inspector Chia is a police officer who deals with secret societies and juvenile delinquents. Will he see the good in Don? Or is his compassion misplaced?
The film is inspired by the true story of Inspector Chia Hwa Tong who — apart from his police work — was known by members of the public for going beyond the call of duty and for his remarkable service to youth.
The Prediction: You’re going to look back on your 15-year old self and thank a heavenly body that you weren’t so terrible. You’re also going to thank any paternal figure in your life for putting up with your teenage self — including your father.
Majid the Legend
The Directors: Jianhao Tan with Ridhwan Azman
The Plot: Uncle Choo spots a young Majid practising football and is struck by the teenager’s passion. The film is inspired by legendary coach Choo Seng Quee who groomed football greats including Majid Ariff. The latter, in turn, inspired a new generation of footballers including Fandi Ahmad.
The Prediction: Can these two famous YouTubers who put out some of the nation’s most low brow content produce a moving short film? Only time will tell.
One At a Time
The Director: Daniel Yam
The Plot: Teresa Hsu was the founder and matron for Home of the Aged Sick, one of the first homes for the sick elderly in Singapore, until she was made to retire at 85. Renowned as Singapore’s own “Mother Teresa”, this short film charts her life’s turning points following retirement and what shaped her relentless story of giving.
The Predictio: You’re going to cry buckets (like, ugly cry until you have difficulty breathing). You’re also going to call your grandparents and tell them you love them. Why do you not do it often anyway?
The Director: Boo Jun Feng
The Plot: At the height of the AIDS scare in the 1980s, health worker Iris arrives at a HDB flat, introducing herself to a family as the younger son’s counsellor. The son is afraid and ashamed of his condition, and the family would like to be discreet.
This film is based on the true story of Iris Verghese, who counselled numerous AIDs patients and their families. Her actions were courageous at a time when there was much fear and stigma around the condition.
The Prediction: You’re going to want to thank the invention of modern medicine and realise that the only raw that should be in your vernacular is the sushi and vegetables you consume.
The Director: Chong Yu Lu
The Plot: A jaded salaryman, Kelvin lives a separate existence from his cheerful condo security guard Shanti. But a devastating illness forces Kelvin to make a promise that will change both their lives. The film is inspired by the true story of Kelvin Lee who helped a family in need. He received the Good Neighbour Award from Sembawang GRC in 1999.
The Prediction: Repeat the feelings you got from Ali Baba. It’s 2020, stop being a bigot.
The Director: Sean Ng
The Plot: Abandoned by his father, Aaron, a 17-year old boy is left in debt and homeless, together with his mother and younger sister. They are forced to live in a tent at East Coast Park. Aaron’s world is shaken after he meets a suspicious man who claims to want to help his family.
This film is based on the true story of Rashid Bakar who made the news in 2000 for housing homeless families in his one-room flat. As a child, Rashid had lived alone on the East Coast of Singapore, sleeping in boats and surviving on scraps for two years.
The Prediction: You’re going to thank your lucky stars that you have a roof over your head. By the way, there are tonnes of donation drives on giving.sg you can contribute to.
The Director: Chai Yee Wai
The Plot: Roman Catholic nun Sister Gerard Fernandez became a death row counsellor after Catherine Tan was sentenced to hang. Catherine Tan was one of the two holy wives of the infamous Adrian Lim — a spirit medium whose outrageous story of sex, rituals and rites shocked the entire nation.
Sister Gerard visited and counselled Catherine every step of the way — until Catherine walked to the gallows in her final moments.
This film is inspired by Sister Gerard Fernandez, who was a pioneer in death row counselling and a co-founder of the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry. When asked why she counsels doomed prisoners, her answer is always: “The condemned need hope. We may condemn them, but God condemns no one.”
The Prediction: Repeat the feelings you got from Ali Baba and Shanti and add all three to your Singapore short films hall of fame.
The Directors: Tan Wei Ting with Kirsten Tan
The Plot: Tan Cheng Siong believed in the potential of a vertical kampung in Singapore, where a C-shaped high-rise building could foster a sense of community. This film tracks the pioneer architect’s journey with Pearl Bank Apartments, from its very start to its final days when the development was finally sold.
Now at the age of 83, Tan Cheng Siong continues to combat social isolation with architectural solutions that are inclusive and community-oriented.
The Prediction: Think that architects have it easy? Well buddy, think again.
The Brown Dog
The Directors: Jerrold Chong, Andre Quek with Eric Khoo
The Plot: A brown dog, with a severed foreleg, struggles to survive amidst a harsh cruel human world. Inspired by true events, this is the story of how Cathy Strong, the co-founder of Animal Lovers League, discovered her calling for saving animals in need.
Cathy’s encounter with the puppy reminds her of what inspired her to start Animal Lovers League, which she co-founded with Mohan Div.
The Prediction: You’re going to hug your best paw friend and make a donation here to the organisation. We know we are.
The Director: Jason Lee
The Plot: The Buddy tells the story of 8-year old Hidayat, who is tasked by his teacher to be a buddy to his isolated and erratic classmate, Tam. The two develop a close bond, eventually making a decision that will change Tam’s life forever.
This film is based on the true story of Nurhidayat Hamid, who attended Ping Yi primary school in the 1990s. He embraced and guided an autistic classmate at a time when there was little understanding of the condition.
Hidayat was the inaugural winner of the first-ever Readers’ Digest Youth Kindness Award.
The Prediction: You’re going to regret all the childish bullying you did in your formative years of schooling. However, it’s not too late to repent. Do something kind today.
The Director: Kelvin Tong
The Plot: Geetha is a hotline counsellor for Tinkle Friend, which reaches out to young children in Singapore. Her story intertwines with a primary school boy Ravi who is left at home to fend for himself. The film is inspired by the volunteers behind Tinkle Friend, a helpline for primary school-aged children.
The Prediction: You’re going to want to donate to Tinkle Friend here after shedding some very, very manly tears.
The T(h)ree Lives
The Director: K.Rajagopal
The Plot: Rosie Wong, a blind woman, shares a retrospective account about the three lives which shaped her life. Taking inspiration from ‘The Giving Tree”, her life is significantly changed by a kind stranger, Pak Cik Tubi Moh Salleh, who helped her get to work evey day for five years.
Pak Cik Tubi continued this good deed for the next few years, tirelessly helping Madam Rosie. For his kindness, Tubi won The Straits Times Courtesy Search in 1990.
The Prediction: You’re going to be astounded by how much water a human body is capable of holding.
Under the Same Pink Sky
The Director: Gladys Ng
The Plot: Yunying, a Chinese-speaking housewife, is diagnosed with breast cancer and worries about the consequences on her family. Mandarin teacher Hedy is a recent breast cancer survivor who is unexpectedly given an opportunity to help other women. Their two paths cross.
The film is inspired by the voluntee who initiated the Breast Cancer Foundation’s Mandarin Support Group to help women who had challenges accessing healthcare information communicated in English.
The Prediction: You’re going to google “how to check for breast cancer” after donating to the support group here.
The Director: Nicole Midori Woodford
The Plot: Tommy opens up his life and home to those who are alone in their last hour, as they move from the world of the living to the dead.
This film is based on the life of Tommy Yu. A former hooligan, Tommy found joy helping and befriending old folks. Today he runs Seng Xiang Services, which performs pro-bono funerals for those who die alone. He has been volunteering with seniors for the past 30 years.
The Prediction: You’re going to sign up here to volunteer and we hope you keep it up. You’re a shining beacon of kindness. Four for you!