A Film That Changed My Life

Published on 23 December 2016

How does a single movie shape your views and stir your soul?

BY DAPHNE ONG

 

Few forms of media can match the power of film to move us through sight, sound and storytelling. Every now and then, each of us comes across a movie or documentary that speaks to us at a deeper level, nudges us a little further, and teaches us more about ourselves. Six individuals in the arts scene share their most poignant and inspiring film memories.

INVISIBLE CITY (2007)
Directed by Tan Pin Pin

 

Boo Junfeng, Film-maker:

Singaporean documentary Invisible City was one that hit me particularly close to home in the way it raises questions on personal and social memory. There is a scene where veteran journalist Han Tan Juan describes his experience of being in one of the Chinese middle-school protests at Chung Cheng High School as a student during the 1950s. I was from Chung Cheng myself and had learnt of the protests only through official accounts in our history textbooks. This perspective from someone who had been there during actual events was completely new to me. I began to realise the subjectivity of history. It gave me a more nuanced perspective of the past. My first feature film, Sandcastle, was partly inspired by my thoughts after watching Invisible City.

 

WHO SHOULD WATCH IT Everyone, especially students and educators. I believe it will inspire critical thinking — we could use more of that in our society.

C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

 

Nabilah Said, Playwright, Poet, Fiction writer:

C.R.A.Z.Y. is a French-language Canadian coming-of-age film about a young homosexual man Zac, a misfit in his family, and his struggle to be accepted by his father. I’m very into stories that look at father-son and mother-daughter relationships. This film may be one reason for this obsession. What stands out for me in this beautifully shot movie is the way Zac’s mother makes toast for the family — she uses an iron to burn the bread instead of a regular toaster. I like it not just because it’s a quirky detail, but it shows how eccentric some family rituals can be. Everyone has rituals of their own, and it’s always going to be weird to someone not in that family. I just loved that.

 

WHO SHOULD WATCH IT Anyone who’s ever felt like the underdog.

ROMEO + JULIET (1996)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann

 

Crispian Chan, Actor, Performance Photographer:

Luhrmann brought an age-old Shakespearean tragedy to the silver screen in a way that I, as a highly impressionable teenage arts student, would not have thought of. He brought a classic theatre piece to a mainstream audience and reinvented the genre with his MTV-style editing, production design and that incredible soundtrack. I remember sitting in the cinema and everyone was bawling their eyes out at Leo DiCaprio and the cast speaking in iambic pentameter in a centuries-old language… and people got it! The visual storytelling coupled with a strong theatre performance from the cast excited me about the possibilities of theatre back then. It reminds me, to this day, that theatre is always accessible — despite how old these scripts may be. Like Luhrmann’s film, I now love mixing the classic with the contemporary, be it trying to transfer the story to a modern setting or bringing elements of pop culture into a classic.

 

WHO SHOULD WATCH IT All secondary-school kids, as early as possible. It’s a wonderful way to discover Shakespeare, to see the historical context but also to find out how timeless it is.

PATCH ADAMS (1998)
Directed by Tom Shadyac

 

Elaine Ng, Early childhood practitioner,
co-founder of arts organisation The Learning Connections:

Patch Adams was the first film to get me started on using media as part of my teaching and learning strategies with early childhood educators. Since then, I started a library of films with different messages that I want to show during my classes with adult learners. There are several quotes in Patch Adams’ final speech before the medical board that resonate with me. He reminds us that every human being has an impact on another. He reminds us about altruistic relationships and gets us to think about the focus of our studies, that it is not a quest for grades that defines who we are.

 

WHO SHOULD WATCH IT Everyone. It’s an amazing film that shows how inspiration is all around us if we just pay attention.

DANCER IN THE DARK (2000)
Directed by Lars von Trier

 

Shaming He, Film Director, Adjunct lecturer,
Puttnam School of Film, LASALLE College of the Arts:

When I was in secondary school, going to the movies after exams with my friends was a ritual. I was a Björk fan and convinced my friends to watch Dancer in the Dark, which was her debut starring role. When the film ended, I remember sitting in the theatre feeling absolutely numb about what I had just experienced. You know how a child experiences something, like an emotion, for the first time? It felt that way, and there was something exhilarating about that. From there, I started expanding my taste in films. I got interested in cinema’s ability to challenge, ask questions, and encourage discourse.

 

WHO SHOULD WATCH IT When I did a film therapist stint at The Substation, I recommended the movie to a mother who enjoys musicals because it offers a form of escape for her. I wanted her to look at musicals differently.

THE BANQUET (1991)
Directed by Tsui Hark, Alfred Cheung, Clifton Ko, Joe Cheung

 

Jonathan Lim, Director, Writer, Actor:

The Banquet was made over a couple of weeks in a frantic effort to raise funds for the thousands displaced by the flooding of the Yangtze River that year. Practically the entire Hong Kong entertainment industry came together to volunteer to be in the film. The plot is farcical and a lot of the film is clearly improvised — it is homespun and goofy, but overflowing with hope, heart and a wistfulness about old friends and good ol’ days. It taught me that the arts industry can also be a community able to come together when it matters and acknowledge its power to make a difference. That is what a country and culture should be proudest of, and what I am proud to be a tiny part of. I started looking beyond ‘the work’ and at the community behind it, including the ties that bind us. This led to my fascination with our theatre history and pioneers, and how they started exploring and challenging our Singapore identity.

 

WHO SHOULD WATCH IT Anyone who thinks entertainment is all back-stabbing and closed doors. Anyone who’s starting out in the scene and viewing it as an industry rather than as a family. Anyone who wants to celebrate art as a place where the heart of our society can manifest itself.

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