The latest local movie production, Singapore Dreaming, opened last week. One of its producers is fellow doctor, acclaimed plastic surgeon, Woffles Wu. Together with husband & wife team, Colin Goh & Dr Woo Yen Yen, they do a credible job in creating something that shows the heart & soul of Singapore.
It revolves around the lives of an average Chinese-Singaporean family. Dad, Loh Poh Huat, is the typical wannabe, disdainful of HDB dwellers, & counting the days when he strikes Toto & can afford to move into his dream condo & buy his dream car & join an elite country club. Mum is a housewife, content with her duties of keeping house, cooking & brewing ‘liang teh’ (herbal tea) everyday for the family. Oldest child is Mei, a secretary married to an ex-Army regular, C.K., who now struggles to earn a living by selling life insurance. Mei has always struggled for her parents' love & attention, and being born a girl is a great disadvantage in this struggle. Younger offspring is Seng, the precious son, the ne’er-do-good, sent off to the golden land of America to get a degree from an American university so that he can return after graduating to earn a good living & repay the money spent by his father & his long-suffering fiancée, Irene, to support his studies. Or so it is hoped.
A multitude of local social issues are laid bare: our obsession with the 5C’s, our oftentimes hypocritical attitudes towards domestic maids, urinating in lifts, the preferential treatment shown to sons vs daughters. Swipes are taken at the kiasu-ism of Singaporeans, with a mother shown admonishing her kindergarten-aged son rather violently for scoring 95% in a spelling test instead of 100% like his classmate. Dr Woffles Wu even makes a cameo appearance as a family friend paying his condolences at the wake of the ill-fated Loh (“No need to give so much, OK,” he tells his wife softly, as they approach Mei to give her their condolence money, “They won 2 million dollars, you know.”)
It was a raw experience, watching it. So raw that it was almost painful. Although it sometimes seemed that the storytellers were trying to squeeze too many issues into one movie, it was all very real & familiar to me, as a Singaporean. Seeing it all exposed on the big screen made it almost embarrassing to be a Singaporean, although at the end of the story, everyone gets his/her comeuppance.
And what does Singapore Dreaming have to do with the IMF/World Bank meetings? Nothing direct, really (apart from the fact that the movie opened in local theatres just 4 days prior to the start of the meetings – hmmmmm…coincidence? ☺ ). It just made me think of all the aesthetic remodeling & “cosmetic surgery” (all of which would have done Dr Wu proud ☺) that has been taking place in the preceding few months to pretty up this little island of ours. After watching the movie, it became more obvious that we really needed all the surface touch-ups.