Film stars of Tiong Bahru

ABDUL Hadi Indra Jasni, 16, has landed a role in an upcoming movie. He has not seen the script yet and does not even know what role he will be playing. But he is still rehearsing diligently, writes Lisabel Ting in The Straits Times, Jun 22, 2010

‘It’s my first time in a movie, so I’m quite nervous. I practise speaking in front of the mirror sometimes, saying out loud to myself, ‘Be cool, be cool, go with the flow’,’ says the Outram Secondary School student.

The movie he will be in is CIVIC LIFE: TIONG BAHRU, a short film by London-based film-makers Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy.

It is the 10th in a series of Civic Life films, which focus on local communities, exploring the relationships between residents and the environment in which they live and work. The film is a collaboration between the British Council and the National Museum of Singapore with support from the Singapore International Foundation.

Speaking to Life! over the telephone from London, Molloy says: ‘The script will be finalised only in the last minute, as it has to be spontaneous.

‘So far, we only have a rough idea of the movie’s structure. It’s going to be a triptych, divided into three stories.’

Previous Civic Life films, all under 20 minutes long, include Civic Life: Leisure Centre, which was shot in Dublin, Ireland, and Civic Life: Tyneside, which was shot in England.

The Singapore film is the first to be shot outside the United Kingdom.

While Lawlor and Molloy are both experienced film-makers, they say filming Civic Life: Tiong Bahru will present unique challenges.

‘Filming in Tiong Bahru market will be technically difficult,’ says Molloy, who was in Singapore with Lawlor in April to cast actors.

‘There will be a lot of noise and numerous distractions such as people getting their food.’

They will shoot the film from Friday to Sunday at the market as well as at a nearby multi-storey carpark and several streets in the neighbourhood.

Molloy also says she and Lawlor will be more ambitious with the Singapore film, as compared to their previous films.

‘Civic Life: Tiong Bahru will contain more close-up shots,’ she explains.

‘Close-ups are difficult to shoot as they require the actors to be intimate with the camera and it can be hard to draw this out from people.’

Each of the three interconnected stories in the film deals with a different aspect of life in Tiong Bahru. All three happen over one day and will involve between 50 and 70 Tiong Bahru residents in total.

The first story, which stars Abdul Hadi, is about a recently married young man who works at his parents’ coffee stall in Tiong Bahru market and is talking to them about taking it over.

The second story explores the relationship between an old Tiong Bahru resident and her granddaughter, while the final tale is about an elderly resident who is leaving Tiong Bahru to live with her son, his wife and their two children.

Logistics operator Chia Tee Kit’s family play the characters in the third story.

The 48-year-old says: ‘I’ve lived in Tiong Bahru my whole life. I remember running around these streets when I was young. I feel quite attached to this place, and I’m really glad I have the opportunity to take part in the film.’

His two children, Cherylin, nine, and Kimberly, 14, will also appear in the film.

Although he agreed immediately to participate in the film when the Tiong Bahru Residents’ Committee approached him, his wife, Mrs Christine Chia, was harder to convince.

Says the 49-year-old housewife: ‘At first, I told my husband that I didn’t want to appear on film, but he said that by doing this we would be contributing to the community.’

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