En is an 18-year-old who has lost his father to cancer years ago. While waiting for his enlistment into the army, he has to put up at his grandparents’ place as his mother goes on a holiday with a new man in her life.
As En soon finds out at his grandparents’ place, life cannot be put on hold indefinitely. He gets more and more involved with his grandparents’ lives – the routines his grandfather builds around his grandmother’s dementia and which his grandfather fears are no longer sufficient to support her worsening condition. At his grandparents’ place, En also discovers that there may be more to his father’s student activist past than his mother lets on and is determined to get to the bottom of the matter.
As his family is drawn together in a sudden tragedy, En has to decide where his loyalty lies and stand up for what he believes in. But in a country where ideologies are forged on constantly shifting sands, he finds himself struggling to stay true to what he knows to be right. And in a family that prefers to forget, the sandcastles of everything he holds dear seem doomed to be washed away by the tides of time.
About The Film
National identity in Singapore has been forged through years of propaganda. Singaporeans are constantly reminded that our city-state has transformed itself from a Third World country to First World in one generation, and that freedom of expression and speech should be sacrificed for social stability and peace. One of the prime sites for nationalistic indoctrination is National Service, where male Singaporeans are conscripted into the military for two years. And yet among members of my generation, the experience has often bred cynicism and even apathy. The idea of defending the ideals of the nation has become abstract and remote.
I found myself asking a few questions while conducting research for the film. What did it mean for an earlier generation of activists to fight for this notion of a homeland, often at great personal risk? Whatever happened to their naïve ambitions and noble dreams? It seems to me that there has been some rupture or disconnect between my generation and the one that preceded us, where romantic idealism has been replaced by calculative pragmatism.
At various times in the film, the character of En experiences a nagging emptiness, disorientation and even loss. But he embarks on a redemptive journey to understand his family’s background and by extension, his nation’s history. I believe this is a journey that many Singaporeans are beginning to make, in a country that is staring so hard at its future that it has become blind to its past.
- International Criticsʼ Week, Cannes Film Festival 2010
- Toronto International Film Festival 2010
- Pusan International Film Festival 2010
- Vietnam International Film Festival 2010:
Best Film, Best Director & NETPAC Jury Award
- Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2010:
Directed by Boo Junfeng Written by Boo Junfeng
Executive Producers Eric Khoo / James Toh / Michael J Werner / Nelleke Driessen
Produced by Fran Borgia / Gary Goh Associate Producer Tan Fong Cheng / Esther Yeung / Raymond P.
Starring Joshua Tan / Elena Chia / Bobbi Chen / Ng Jing Jing / Samuel Chong
Cinematography by Sharon Loh Music by Darren Ng Production Designer James Page
Edited by Natalie Soh Distributed by Golden Village Pictures Int. Sales Agent Fortissimo Films
Release date 12 May 2005 (Cannes Film Festival), 8 September 2005 (Singapore)
Running time 92 minutes Language Mandarin / English / Hokkien