The common threads that bind us

A new anthology of short films, Together Apart, will be released on 4 April 2017. Presented by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), the anthology explores local-foreigner relations and issues of social integration through various lenses. Together Apart comprises three short films directed by Kelvin Tong, K Rajagopal and Sanif Olek. 

2 The anthology was developed from winning ideas submitted by members of public to Project Lapis Sagu, a crowdsourced film initiative on cultural diversity and social integration launched in November 2016. The initiative attracted 1,209 entries and is part of ongoing efforts to promote greater understanding and mutual respect between locals and foreigners here in Singapore. 

3 The short films explore relationships between Singaporeans and foreigners from different angles and settings. All three arrive at the same meeting point – that we can move beyond our differences and find common threads that bind us, if we take a moment to put ourselves in each other’s shoes. 

4 “These stories originated from the public, and our directors helped develop them further. We are very happy that our efforts to co-create content with public and industry have given fruit to these distinct short films. They surface pain points between Singaporeans and foreigners to spark conversations which will help us come to a better understanding of one another. We hope the films will resonate with people and get them thinking deeper about certain issues,” said Karen Tan, Senior Director of Public Communications Division, MCI.

5 The anthology begins with K Rajagopal’s Sanjay, which touches on the struggles and challenges of a young couple who just migrated to Singapore from India. The film is based on a logline submitted by Sean Loo, a digital film student. Rajagopal said, “The process of making this film was enriching. Working with Sean, we developed a concept from a one-liner and synopsis to a script that reflects a real portrayal of characters who are authentic and believable in what Singapore is today. What I hope the audience will take away is the message that acceptance, tolerance and understanding is essential — if we remain ignorant, then it is our fault; we must forge a bridge with different cultures as we work and live with different communities.”

6 The second film in the anthology is Sanif Olek’s The Manifest, based on a logline submitted by Thomas Goh, a National Serviceman. It takes us centuries ahead in time and shows the tensions between a Singaporean space engineer and a naturalised citizen on a critical mission. Sanif explained, “I picked this story because I feel that the setting in space is very unique. It articulates the messaging in an innovative, non-conventional way. It excites me as a filmmaker. Other than the messaging, there is also a very strong character study of the two protaganists. What would succumbing to anger and loneliness turn a person into? With The Manifest, I hope that the audience will further embrace the rich cultural diversity here in Singapore. However, it takes two hands to clap — while there is so much literature about how locals should be more accepting, new migrants also need to break away from their enclaves and mingle with locals.”

7 Kelvin Tong’s B.M.T. (Beijing, Mumbai, Tampines) wraps up the anthology. Kelvin chose to explore the National Service experience shared by both Singaporeans and naturalised citizens. “Making the Lapis Sagu short film has been eye-opening. There are many sensitivities surrounding the issue of social integration. Exploring the issue inevitably made us venture into unknown territory that was uncomfortable but ultimately rewarding,” he said. B.M.T. is based on a logline submitted by medical student Alvona Loh.

8 The media is invited to attend the premiere of Together Apart at Shaw Lido, on Tuesday 4 April 2017, from 6.30pm – 8.30pm. Registration is required. Please RSVP to Ms Nageswaran Naganandhini by 3 April 2017. The anthology will be made available online at from 9pm on 4 April 2017.


Annex - Synopses of films


 SN Director  Synopsis 
 1 Director: K Rajagopal
Based on logline from Sean Loo 
Title: Sanjay

Sanjay and his wife, Divya, have recently moved to Singapore from India. In the face of an impending cutback by his company management, Sanjay struggles to juggle work and adjusting to life in Singapore. Divya on the other hand learns to form new friendships with the Singaporean community around her. 
 2 Director: Sanif Olek
Based on logline from Thomas Goh
Title: The Manifest

More than a hundred years into the future, two Singaporean space engineers are in a spaceship on a mission for the Singapore Space Agency. Kyle, who was born overseas, and Morgan are constantly bickering about the place of foreigners in Singapore. As tensions peak, how do the two of them resolve their differences? 
 3 Director: Kelvin Tong
Based on logline from Alvona Loh 
Title: B.M.T. (Beijing, Mumbai, Tampines)

After a gruelling day of training, a group of quarrelsome National Service recruits call their mothers from their phones. Despite their different origins, their conversations with home are poignantly similar. B.M.T. aims to show that despite surface tensions between ordinary Singaporeans and new citizens, they share the same humanity deep down. 

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