BISFF Correspondence 通信计划
为了跨越种种障碍，开辟更多交流空间，我们设置了“BISFF Correspondence 通信计划”，对部分国际单元的参展作者进行系列访谈，这些访谈将在作品放映后发布在联展各个媒体平台。
A Spider, Fever and Other Disappearing Islands｜蜘蛛、发烧和其他消失的岛屿
Singapore｜English, Chinese Dialect｜0:20:43｜2021
Interviewer&translator采访、翻译：苏丽珂 Suliko、娄白杨 Lou Baiyang
Q：How did you get started on this film?
A：On Tomb-sweeping Day in 2015, I went to Indonesia with my grandmother, who immigrated from Indonesia and settled in Singapore. I was in college at the time and shot some video footage with my iPhone. And then in 2020, because of COVID-19, we can only stay at home and cannot go out, so I spent a lot of time with my grandmother every day. During that time, not knowing what to do, my grandmother decided to write a memoir to record her past experiences and childhood events. She didn't know how to use a computer, so I helped her type it into the computer.
Q：There's a scene in which your grandmother is dictating and the girl across from grandmother is typing, so that's a real scene from your life, right?
A：Yes. So the film might be a little bit like a documentary, but it's not a total documentary, it's half documentary, half unreal, and I thought I'd like to combine them.
Then in 2021, there was an exhibition in Singapore in 2021 called Objectifs, which was about female, and it had a open call for relevant works. Therefore, I took the original idea for my grandmother's documentary and got my other friends who were also in Southeast Asia to make a short film together. But because of COVID-19, we didn't met in person, only communicated online.
Q：Is your grandmother the one who plays herself in the movie?
Q：How did you communicate with her about the film? Did the shooting create new emotional connection between you two?
A：When I was in high school in 2013, I made a short film about my grandmother, so I've been filming her a lot since then, and she knows what I'm doing, so she doesn't think it's weird. We just went very smoothly and don't need extra communication. At that time, I told my grandmother that you used to tell me a story about the spider spirit. When we went to Indonesia, she would tell me that this is the place where God lives, in our hometown. I told her I was going to make a film about our hometown, about the spider spirit, and she said OK, so we got started. Because my grandmother was also an artist, she is a painter, so she was used to these things.
Q：Did your grandmother tell you a lot of myths and legends or local stories when you were a child? Did these stories spark your interest in tracing your family history?
A：Because I was an only child so it was just me and my grandmother (and parents though) spending my childhood together, then I grew up hearing these stories. My grandmother came to Singapore at a very young age, many things she encountered were not much of happiness, there were traumatic experiences instead. In this short film, I also try to discuss female trauma during the immigration history. A legend is mentioned later in the film, its original version was a story written by my grandmother, which described a man who got drunk and then were killed by his uncle, I switched it to the female version, which shows a woman in bed getting drunk by her uncle.
I also read an article in college at the time, an anthropological ethnography by Rupert Stasch called Singapore, Big Village of the Dead: Cities as Figures of Desire, Domination, and Rupture among Korowai of Indonesian Papua. This article is about a lot of people who live in Indonesia and have a strange imagination that after you die, you will go to Singapore. I think this legend amazing, because I always feel as if Singapore is a very modern place in the eyes of many people.
我当时在大学也读到一篇文章，是鲁珀特·斯塔施（Rupert Stasch）所写作的人类学民族志《新加坡，往生之人的大村庄：城市在印尼巴布亚科罗威人当中作为欲望、统治和分裂的形象》（Singapore, Big Village of the Dead: Cities as Figures of Desire, Domination, and Rupture among Korowai of Indonesian Papua）。这篇文章讲的是很多住在印尼的人，他们有一种奇怪的想象，就是在你死之后，你会去往新加坡。他们有这样的传说，我觉得很神奇。因为我总觉得，好像新加坡在很多人的眼里是一个非常现代的地方。
A：Yeah, there's a lot of new stuff. But in fact, Singapore has a lot of history and legends, which are not very joyful, but with traumas. Many ghost stories are related to the history. So in the film, I represent Singapore as a city of people after death, and it discusses the ideas related to death in local legends.
Now there are many countries in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, but it was not like this when my grandmother was young. At that time, Malaysia and Singapore were part of the same state, and if you wanted to go from Singapore to Indonesia, you didn't need a passport. The concept of nation came very late in Southeast Asia, and they didn't have the concept of their own nation until 1965, and I feel this concept very abstract. So I combined my grandmother's stories with this discussion of the concept of nation in the short film.
Q：You mentioned that Singapore is not such a happy metropolis as imagined, but rather traumatic, and that there are many ghost-related stories linked to history. Can you elaborate on that?
A：Singapore is a country with a layered sense of the gothic, much of which is buried under the surface. This sense of death pervades the urban space. For example in the film, a few scenes feature an ancient looking cave, which is actually part of a theme park on the island of Sentosa, famous as a tourist beach destination.
However, the original name of Sentosa was Pulau Blakang Mati. The Malay name for this island is literally translated as "dead back" or "behind the dead"; in this island, there are many stories about Bugis pirates plundering, looting and killing the inhabitants of the island and Japanese soldiers slaughtering locals on its beaches during the Japanese occupation from 1942-1945 surround the origins of the name. Yet now it is a casino theme park of the super rich with golden sandy beaches, resort accommodations, world renowned golf courses, a deepwater yachting marina and luxurious residences.
然而，圣淘沙最初的名字是Pulau blakang mati，这个岛的马来语名字直译为“死去”或“死后”；在这个岛上，有许多关于武吉士海盗掠夺、抢劫和杀害岛上居民的故事，以及1942年至1945年日本占领期间日本士兵在海滩上屠杀当地人的故事，这些故事与岛屿名字的起源紧密相联。而现在，它成了一座属于超级富豪的赌场主题公园，拥有金色的沙滩、度假酒店、世界知名的高尔夫球场、深水游艇码头和豪华住宅。
Q：As Rupert Stasch mentioned in his anthropological ethnography, an important theme in the anthropology of space is that specific spatial forms often work for people as mediations of historical consciousness. So how does the space of Indonesia and Singapore feature in your themes, texts and images? How does spider become the intermediary of such historical perception?
A：My Background is in archaeology and anthropology so in a way the film is an archaeological exercise into excavating the strange and familiar, and the sometimes uncanny experience of growing up in Singapore.
My grandmother emigrated to Singapore from Indonesia in 1949 just after the war and brought with her stories and also spirits. I think before the rise of nation states in the modern era, the sense of movement between islands in the straits was a lot more porous, so I think part of the understanding of space was also to express this archipelagic sense.
In 2015, I returned with my grandma to her hometown of Tanjung Batu - for the Cheng Meng tomb sweeping festival. You have to take two ferries from Singapore and then you reach in a couple of hours. When we reached her hometown, I saw a small altar there and she told me about a spider spirit who spun its web in the house when the occupants had emigrated to Singapore. I was trying to use the figure of the spider spirit as an intermediary between Singapore and Indonesia.
Q：How does your anthropological background influence your work?
A：I learned layered sense of history from anthropology, and I think film is made in the same way, different layers combined together. So sometimes we do not pursue a complete whole. I made the film with my friends just like having fun. This short film has a little bit of horror style, but it's not completely horror, it just has some horror elements.
This "layered sense of history" means that personal experience and family stories interwave like a spider's web to create the thing we called "history". So I don't think there is really a "one story", but many people's experiences and stories are intertwined. My short film tells the story of my grandmother, but it's not just about my grandmother, so I don't like to tell my animator what I want, but I let her interpret what she sees.
我从人类学的学习当中认识到一种“历史的层次感”（layered sense of history），我觉得电影也是这样的东西，一层一层，不同的东西结合在一起的。所以有时候我们不追求一个完整的整体。我跟我的朋友们一起做电影，就好像在玩，就像我们这个短片有一点恐怖片的东西，可是不完全是恐怖片，它只是有一部分恐怖片的元素。
Q：So ultimately it's going to be, the animator's story, and your grandmother's story, all mixed together.
Q：You mentioned that you try to discuss female trauma during the immigration history in this short film, how did you represent this theme in the film?
A：It's mainly baked into the story of the spider spirit who transmutes from a character of a woman, who is hinted to be my grandmothers sister. This part is semifictional - it's an colonial period urban myth of this woman who gets murdered by her uncle and her body is stuffed under the Elgin bridge. We represented her transmutation into a spider via an animation sequence done by Yanren Wang, an animator from China. Trauma is always somewhat connected to my work, and healing is never linear. I think that's what the film is about.
它主要是融入了蜘蛛精的故事，蜘蛛精从一个女性角色转化而来，这个女人被暗示成是我祖母的妹妹。这部分是半虚构的——这是一个殖民时期的都市神话，这个女人被她的叔叔谋杀了，尸体被塞在埃尔金桥下。我们通过王彦人 (一位来自中国的动画师) 制作的动画序列来呈现她变成蜘蛛的过程。创伤总是和我的作品联系在一起，治愈从来都不是线性的，我想这就是这部电影的意涵所在。
Q：You adopted a "soft horror" style in this film. Why do you choose this style? The narrator of this film is indeterminate, sometimes the narrator is grandma, sometimes "me", sometimes a present spirit. For example, there's a scene where the grandmother tells the story of her grandfather's fever before he died, and here you use an overlapping audio track, as if a spirit or a ghost were speaking. How do you consider and organize these multiple perspectives？
A：I was influenced by my favorite movies, bands and music videos. The normal process of making a film might be shoot and then cut it, but we didn't make it like this. We were shooting and cutting as we went along, so we didn't really think much about making a horror film, it was more likely because all of us were watching something related to it, computer games, music, and my editor was playing a computer game called Genshin Impact at the time. So it's not a particular thing that sparked our thoughts, it evolved quite organically and naturally. We never had a script and just improvised and shot week by week and edited in between, so these ideas were experimental, not with a definite plan, just trying to do it. I think there will be a sense of mutability about the characters that came together only in editing.
我喜欢的电影、乐队以及音乐视频（music video）都影响了我。一般电影的制作流程可能是先拍、再去剪，但我们当时不是的，我们当时是一边拍一边剪，所以那个时候我们其实对做成一个恐怖片风格没有想很多，更可能是因为我们所有人当时都在看一些相关的东西，电脑游戏、音乐之类的，那时我的剪辑师还正在玩一个电脑游戏，叫原神（Genshin Impact）。所以并不是某个特定的东西激发了我们的想法，它是自然而然地、有机地发展起来的。我们从来没有剧本。我们只是即兴发挥，一周接一周地拍摄，中间再“剪辑”一下，所以这些想法也都是实验性的，不是带着一种明确的计划，只是尝试去做。我认为只有在编辑的过程中，角色才会有一种可变性。
Q：Your team seems to be very interested in horror film, video game, cartoons and other popular cultures. So we are curious that who are you and your team partners' favorite directors?
A：To be honest I hardly watch horror films. But I was inspired by a few people for this project. Even though aesthetically it is entirely different but I am always inspired by the works of Payal Kapadia for its intimate quality. We also enjoyed the MV of Czech experimental music group BCAA system called No~one Is an Island.
In terms of directors - my dp enjoys the works of Kaori Oda, my editor TJ likes Summer Palace by Lou Ye and video games, my editor/sound Vivien enjoys 3 Women by Robert Altman and Kate bush, for me I enjoy lately the films of Hong sang soo. It's totally different from the style of this film we made.
老实说，我几乎不看恐怖片，但是这个项目的一些人给了我灵感。尽管美学上完全不同，但我总是受到帕拉尔·卡帕迪亚作品的启发，它们隐秘而亲密。我们还欣赏了捷克实验音乐组合BCAA system 的MV《No~one Is an Island》。
Q：Why did you choose the split-screen format? There is a scene in the film where in the car, the right side of the screen is normal and the left side keeps flickering, how was this scene conceived?
A：Because when my grandmother was telling me stories, I found that the stories she telling were different from the versions in her book. For example, I asked her, this story is about the spider, can you tell me about it? Then it seemed that she was a little bit confused about which version was real, which was just in her dream, and she had no idea which story was her creation and which was history. So at that time I wanted to express this in the film, the dream and the reality (co-exist).
The scene in the car was actually an accident, and it grew out of the online collaboration I had with my two editors, one in Singapore and one in the Philippines, who didn't meet each other in person and had to communicate online. Sometimes the network was not stable, and they had this kind of accident while transmitting data. But when we saw this scene, we just thought it was interesting, like being connected with a ghost or something. Sometimes the editor Vivien was also very scared because it felt like a supernatural event (laughs), she did not know why the clip was flashing, and we did not know whether she was joking or talking about the real things.
Q：There's some hand-drawn material, and also some folk art and animation. Did your grandmother create that? Was she involved?
A：No, some of the drawings were made by my grandmother's sister. We had five friends working on the animation, and we didn't use Grandma's. In the last five minutes of the film, there is a picture painted by my grandmother's sister. One day she painted a picture of two women rowing a boat, and we guessd if she wanted to go back home in Indonesia, and three hours later she died.
Q：Why did you choose to present the spider spirit in a way that was a bit like a stage show?
A：I didn't really think something deepgoing about it, the spider spirit was played by me, and it's just because I wanted to be a spider spirit at that time (laughs). I have an artist friend and she made her own costumes. I asked her how can I present "I'm the Spider Spirit" and she took me to a troupe. They were having a lot of things on sale and we went to pick them up. There you could take a bag and buy a lot of things to fill it up, maybe just cost $1. We took a fancy to a big fluffy fabric, and my friend said we could use it to make costumes with my grandmother. That's what this movie is. It's full of surprises.
Q：We learned that in addition to being shown on the screen of BISFF , your short film was also exhibited as an artistic installation, can you tell me about that?
A：It was at a film festival in Germany, the film was presented as a video installation, using two screens, and the exhibition room was very small, only about 5 square meters. The audience had to go into the room to watch it, which was very different from watching it in a movie theater. Because it allowed the audience to be very close to my work and has a very intimate feeling, and the sound of the film will surround you, so you will feel like you are in a cave. The cave was "fluffy," and the walls of the room were all hairy, warm and soft.
Q：Like a womb?
A：Yeah, it's like a spider's home, and it's like you're inside the spider's body. I like this approach, because this is the original vision for the video.
Q：Your grandmother is a descendant of the Chiuchow people and immigrated to Singapore from Indonesia. You were born into such an immigrant family and then you went to study in a Western country, it seems that the environment and culture you grew up in was very mixed up. Do you feel the collision between them?
A：Not really. I think my relationship with my grandmother is very natural. But I came to BISFF this time to see a lot of Chinese movies are talking about the problem of generation, as if there's a big difference in thinking between a child's age and their parents' age. But I don't think my family is like that.
Q：Don't you have a generation gap?
A：I think it's very different. We have a generation gap, but it is not the same problem as China.
Q：In this film, you practiced a pan-Asian approach to filmmaking. In terms of content, you connect the geography and history between countries and islands of Southeast Asia. And your team is made up of members from various countries, from Singapore to the Philippines. Where did this idea come from?
A：I met my editor TJ at the short film lab of Objectifs. He’s Filipino American who grew up in Chicago and studied in London and Pennsylvania, and had moved to Manila. And I had moved back from the Uk to Singapore right before the pandemic. So we were thinking of questions of pan-Asian connections and historical links between these islands. We were also watching Tsai Ming Liang's What Time Is It There and thinking about making our own linkages across fine and space - about shared weather patterns, even religious syncretic beliefs as we both grew up in catholic families that also practiced some folk religion.
Q：Will you continue to practice with a pan-Asian perspective in your future filmmaking?
A：Yes, I intend to shoot something with a pan-Asian perspective for my next project in fact, shooting in Malaysia.
Q：What is your next plan？
A：I'm working on a new play. It is a group of people creating together. And I have a friend studying drama in New York, whom we have started friendship since 12 years old. Now we work together sometimes. The next film is about the young between 28 to 35 years old and is concerned with their love issue, not the historical topic like this.