Boo Junfeng's Sandcastle

18th February 2011. Written by Xin Li.

Photos from Sandcastle Facebook Page.
I had the opportunity to watch a short film by a local film maker yesterday at the Arts House, also known as the former Parliament House. It was entitled “Sandcastle” by Boo Junfeng.

Some of you might know him playing a role in Invisible Children by Brian Gothong Tan who is the mastermind behind the short film, “Imelda Goes to Singapore” played during the Singapore Biennale years ago.

The film premiered at Cannes last year April and you can read up more about the various awards, reviews and views on the web, there are plenty of them. The story can be in short summed up as a series of events that took place around an eighteen year old boy named Tan Xiang En (starring Joshua Tan) before he got enlisted. A trend I observed in Boo Junfeng’s previous film as well entitled Keluar Baris.

At the Arts House

From the short question and answer session we had with the director after the film, I found out that the film was actually shot within a short span of time though preparations were made way ahead. If I remember correctly the whole film was shot within a period of 18 days (coincidentally the age of the protagonist in the film) as it was rushed to be premiered at Cannes.

This would be a spoiler for those who had not watched it:
The film opened to an introduction with the NDP song “Home” (being sung by Temasek Junior College Choir) and introduces Tan Xiang En, the protagonist. The first tragedy happened when the protagonist’s grandfather passed away abruptly before they are able to make their planned trip to Johor. The grandma (starring Ng Jing Jing) is an old lady with Alzheimer’s who loves to visit the beach (something she is unable to do so as her spouse is longer there to bring her to the beach).

This part of the film was something I find so real. For a person with two elderly parents I am very afraid that either of them just left one day.

Without anyone to care for frail old lady, Xiang En and his mum (starring Elena Chia) decides to bring her home to take care of her and the plot started to thicken as more complications took place such as Xiang En getting into a relationship with a Chinese girl name Ying (starring Bobbi Chen) next door and having sex (which his mother was disgusted by), her mum is having a relationship with a “grand colonel” which Xiang En disapproves of, Xiang En found out that his dad was actually a student leader in the Communist protests in the 1950s and more.

I shall not divulge any more details of the film but basically there was simply too many things going on in this short film within a short time. Further weaknesses of this film were the repetitive music and the film over employed fade in and out effects. All of it together with the myriad of subplots not only diluted the main plotline of the film but also weakened the flow of this film that holds great potential.

Similar to a meal with hits and misses, this film does have its hits. Compared to a typical Jack Neo film, I find more depth in Sandcastle and while conveying the many facets of Singapore through this film, it does not overdo it with over the top ERP rants or kopi-shop complaints. Hence, I felt that this film carries some universal traits that can communicate to an average Singaporean or a French lady in rural France.

According to the director, the hardest and longest part about the film-making process is the casting. Apparently, it took them quite a while to figure out the perfect actor/actress to star in the roles that they acting.

Some interesting facts about the characters: The actor for Tan Xiang En, Joshua Tan wasn’t a proficient mandarin speaker as he was as the director described as “an ACS boy”.

They joked that instead of the grandma, it was grandpa with dementia as he had a hard time remembering his lines.

As part of their retreat, they went to a club to get themselves familiarize with the club environment which was featured in the club scenes in the film. Part of the process included acting out a breaking up scenario which got them threw out of the club even though it wasn’t real.

Finally, go watch the film, as I felt that it is definitely worth watching for the refreshing take on the Singapore identity (instead of Jack Neo’s). Catch it while it is still being screened at the Arts House from 18th February to 26th Februrary 2011.

The Screening at the Arts House
18th February to 26th February 2011 : $8 for students, NSF and seniors. $10 (U.P)

Sandcastle Movie Website

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