State of Things
Given the state of things at this point in time, what do we really want? Do we speak the same language when we sing the same tune? Are there deeper issues that get buried under the veneer of superficial classifications? Or are we still grappling to find a meaning with the current state of things?
Comments by Dr Khoo Gaik Cheng, University of Nottingham - Malaysia: State of Things was made in response to the “Emergency Filmmaking Project: RSVP” organised by Substation in which filmmakers were asked to respond to the state of the world or their immediate environment using digital video. Ong elicits responses from young Singaporeans by giving them two lines on a piece of paper that the film audience isn’t privy to. Many of the respondents only have a vague idea of what the two lines mean. As the audience, we feel our way around the unprovided message like a blind and curious person. In trying to piece together the responses, we are all too aware that it is something uncannily familiar, something learnt in school, whose message is fundamentally idealistic in its nationalist conception but somehow far removed from the reality of most young Singaporeans. It is this ignorance, this game of hidden truths that the filmmaker plays with his audience which needs close scrutiny: ultimately, Ong asks viewers why there is such a gap of comprehension between the meaning of the two lines given and the conjectured meanings that some of the respondents offer. Without giving the game away, let me say that Ong is gesturing toward the marginalisation of minority language in Singapore, a marginalisation made all the more poignant by his deliberate choice of performers at the film’s conclusion. Still, I believe a much broader social context for the interviews would help strengthen the filmmaker’s point about the state of ethnic relations in Singapore today.