One of the crowdsourced ideas from Project Lapis Sagu was developed into a film based on zombies. Directed by Eric Khoo, the film will not be included in the Project Lapis Sagu anthology film Together Apart due to concerns raised by participants at focus group discussions (FGDs).
2 Eric Khoo’s film was done in a musical theatre style, with a human protagonist representing the Singaporean, and zombies used to portray foreigners. It was developed from a logline submitted by Project Lapis Sagu logline contest winner Tan Zi Hui. Eric commented, “Social integration is a current hot button issue worldwide. The prejudices that locals may have against foreigners are derived largely from irrational fears and phobias. I wanted to express the message that this ‘fear of the other’ could be overcome with understanding and acceptance, not in a preachy heavy-handed way but in a light-hearted, entertaining fashion. Thus, I chose to represent foreigners through the classic horror trope of zombies and to communicate the message via the popular musical theatre format. Considering the contemporary wide appeal of zombies (e.g. Train to Busan) and musicals (e.g La La Land), I felt that audiences would be open to the sonic and visual entertainment, while being exposed to the underlying message of social integration embedded within the short film.”
3 The four films developed under Project Lapis Sagu were pre-tested with audiences from diverse backgrounds to gather feedback and gauge responses. The FGDs were conducted by an independent research company as part of the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI)’s existing efforts to test communications materials.
4 MCI recognises that Eric and Zi Hui wanted to convey positive messages about overcoming prejudices against foreigners through mutual understanding and acceptance. Their film was done in a creative and light-hearted manner. However, focus group participants who viewed the film raised concerns that it might cause offence unintentionally if some of the scenes were interpreted out of context. In consultation with Eric and Zi Hui, MCI decided not to include the film as part of the anthology. We are grateful to Eric and Zi Hui for their contributions to the project, and appreciate Eric’s efforts to mentor our younger film-makers. We look forward to working with them again in the future.
5 Zi Hui said: “It was a pity that the film is not included in Together Apart, as it is a product of hard work from everyone involved. However, film-making is an art, and the appreciation of art is often subjective. This film, although meant to promote social integration, can also be misinterpreted in a drastically different way. I think this is enough reason to not release the film, as it may be used as a vehicle by viewers with ill intentions to propagate a divide between locals and foreigners in Singapore. This will no doubt jeopardise the painstaking efforts taken by MCI to promote social integration in Singapore, which is an arduous enough task as it is.”
6 “It was great working with Zi Hui and team on this project. I want to thank MCI for supporting our short film and am so glad they could relate to it. We look forward to future collaborations,” Eric added.