Sharing Past,
Present and
Future Stories

A conversation on why stories matter for future generations

The annual Singapore Chinese Film Festival promotes film appreciation alongside a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and the language. In 2020, the Hong Leong Foundation – philanthropic arm of the Hong Leong Group – supported the Festival. The Centre for Chinese Studies@SUSS is a co-organiser of the Festival with the Singapore Film Society.


Hong Leong Foundation
Mr Quek Kon Hui,

Centre for Chinese Studies@SUSS

Mr Foo Tee Tuan,

Centre for Chinese Studies@SUSS

Ms Joanna Tan,
Senior Manager

Q: Why is the sharing of stories, such as through the medium of film, significant for building up a community?

MR QUEK: Stories are a way of communicating across generations. Through these stories, we are guided in our behaviour in ways that allow our community to thrive. And this behaviour eventually shapes our culture. Without these stories, we would have lost a significant source of wisdom from the past and be less confident of charting our future.

MR FOO: Visual storytelling through films can affect us powerfully. The combined impact of images, music, dialogue, lighting, sound and special effects elicits strong emotions and helps us to reflect on our own lives, our society and our culture.

Q: What is the role of language in storytelling?

MR FOO: We are reminded of a panel discussion in the Singapore Chinese Film Festival’s 2018 edition titled “To Dub or to Sub: The Importance of Presenting Original Dialogue and Local Dialects in Film”.

In this panel, we discussed how audiences in Singapore are used to the dubbed versions of film and television content. For example, Hong Kong content is primarily in the Cantonese dialect and dubbed into Mandarin for Singaporeans.

The Festival believes it is important to present the original language for three reasons. First, watching the film in its original language is the most authentic way of experiencing it. Second, while people from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore can speak a common language that is Mandarin, they have different stories to tell through various dialects, which possess different histories. Finally, Chinese films should not be defined by just standard Mandarin. It is important to present the diversity of spoken Chinese languages, including the dialects, to explore the numerous cultures that Chinese filmmakers want to bring to light.

Q: The arts and culture are innovating in the time of pandemic. In response, the Singapore Chinese Film Festival adopted a dual track of online and offline screenings in 2020 – something that technology has made possible. Ms Tan, could you share more about this process?

MR TAN: For the 2020 edition, we had 40% of our screenings online and 60% in the cinema. The majority of post-screening Q&A sessions with filmmakers was broadcast live on Facebook and YouTube.

The new format was the result of COVID-19, which has changed the film industry. Despite the challenges, there have been many opportunities for innovation and collaboration. The thinking and camaraderie displayed by the team – from the SUSS community and our partner, the Singapore Film Society, to festival volunteers, film industry partners and sponsors – were really remarkable.

The audience at the opening night of the Festival’s 2019 edition.

Q: Mr Quek, looking ahead, how do you think communities can be strengthened, especially in an increasingly technological and fragmented world?

MR QUEK: As much as technology is a tool that has democratised community-building, it has also created much division in society. I don’t think that we will find our best answers in technology. I’m fearful if we continue to rely on it to shape our communities.

In a rapidly-changing world, it’s important not to lose sight of what we are trying to achieve together, which is a deep sense of our common humanity. The best way to safeguard this humanity, I believe, is to be more mindful of our relationships with one another and certainly, with our technology.

It is a good time for us – and our stories – to return to core values. Even doing or saying less with more thoughtfulness and more considered intentions is already a good outcome to have.

Festival Internship

In 2020, SUSS ran the first ever Singapore Chinese Film Festival Internship programme. Valerie Lei, an intern who assisted in the Festival’s social media management, shares her reflection.

“It was my final year at SUSS, and I was thrilled to discover that I had clinched an internship opportunity with the Festival as my last module.

The Festival was launched much later this year and had taken on a hybrid format. One may think that there would be less preparation work, since the Festival’s physical presence was reduced by half, but that was not the case.

We had to beef social media postings and online communications up, as these were the best ways to create attention during the pandemic. Our meetings were virtual, where ideas were exchanged through group chats and Google Drive. My task was to help with social media visual creation. I was inexperienced, yet the team was very supportive and provided guidance along the way.

I was honoured to meet many talented filmmakers through the online Q&A sessions, which the team tirelessly planned and executed together. Indeed, the team comprised a group of very motivated people, who gave their best for the success of the Festival.

It was a really rewarding journey, and I would definitely agree to do it again in a heartbeat.” – VALERIE

Back to Top