Singapore Art Diary

Wed, July 6: Brought parents to watch BOO Junfeng's The Apprentice at Vivo City's Golden Village. I was probably too tired because I kept falling asleep, waking up only whenever FIRDAUS Rahman (who played the apprentice hangman) stripped, which was not a few times. My impression, in between shut-eye, was a powerfully shot film with an inchoate character at the heart of it.

Fri, July 8: Read my work at Thomas HENG's gathering at Caffe Pralet.

Sat, July 9: Attended Written Country panel with speakers GWEE Li Sui, ALFIAN Sa'at, and a Singaporean historian (Chee Kin?), moderated by Landmark publisher GOH Eck Keng. The event was held in Enabling Village, Lengkok Bahru. Some interesting discussion about the relationship between history and fiction.

Wed, July 13: Attended Epigram's Fiction Panel "The Great Singaporean Novel: Fantasy or Reality." My first visit to the Projector. Met O Thiam Chin for the first time. Bought his book and that of WONG Souk Yee. Edmund WEE, the publisher, announced a doubling of the prize money. He wants the Singapore-born expatriate from overseas to submit too. Epigram is opening a London office so that they can submit the award winner to the Man Booker Prize.

Sat, July 16: Dropped in on the National Schools Literature Festival at CHIK Katong Convent School. Organized by Sharon QUEK and team of teachers. The festival enlisted student participation through various competitions: choral recitation, book trailers, book parades, debates on set and unseen texts. The books hewed closely to school and examination syllabi. Only two tables in the Lower Secondary book parade featured local lit: Stella KON's plays, and an assortment of local poems to do with social justice. A couple of Singapore texts (Jean Tay's play Everything but the Brain and Cyril WONG's edition of short stories Here and Beyond) provided the topics for the Upper School set text debate, but the syllabus was still dominated by the old warhorses such as Cry, the Beloved Country, Lord of the Flies, Julius Caesar, and Death of a Salesman, One of the four unseen debate topics involved poems by Singaporeans.

Sat, July 16: Watched "Fundamentally Happy" the movie, directed by TAN Bee Thiam and LEI Yuan Bin. Enjoyed their adaptation of the play by Haresh SHARMA and Alvin TAN. Strong blue-green color palette, and visual framing and symbolism. Good of Bee Thiam to encourage other filmmakers to adapt stories and plays by Singaporean writers. I think it's a great temptation for a very good director to think that he can write well too. The two talents are found very rarely in the same person.


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