You must be logged in to watch films on Festival Scope - this film may not be available for all users
Siva, a Singaporean Indian man is released after years in prison for contraband smuggling. Unable to find forgiveness from his mother, he begins a quest to locate his ex-wife and daughter. Just as he finds solace and hope in the company of an illegal Chinese prostitute, he is confronted with an unbearable truth about his family. How far will he go in order to redeem himself from his guilt?
Growing up in multi-racial Singapore, one is constantly reminded of one’s race – through identity cards, media depictions, education, housing and social quotas. These policies that seek to appropriate an individual’s racial status for racial equality and promote tolerance for the other, somehow dissolves a collective identity. It is quite instinctive that a Singaporean primarily identifies himself by race rather than nationality.
My short films have always been exploring this voice of the Indian man in Singapore in a personal style of storytelling. I am drawn to the poetic nature of everyday life as an Indian; the liberties, oppositions, hopes, fears and oppressions.
A YELLOW BIRD aims to examine the position of the “Indian” in contemporary Singaporean society. We form 7 percent of a non-homogeneous local population that is also made up of Malays, Eurasians and the predominant Chinese. The story stems from my own experiences as an Indian-Singaporean where a sense of belonging and collective consciousness to my birth nation is frequently questioned and tested. One question I often encounter in my own country is “Where – 4 – are you from?” The Indian person is at times not recognized as a Singaporean, but as an outsider. It is common for foreigners have the impression that Singapore belongs to the Chinese and do not see it as a multi-racial country.
Since an industrial and economic expansion in the 2000s, there has been a greater influx of foreign Indian labourers – New Indians, who come to work in the construction industry. Just as how the Indians came with the British to construct a new Singapore in the mid-nineteenth century, it seemed that history was repeating itself. A tension between the New Indians and the local population has emerged out of this shift in population boundaries.
Singaporeans avoid social contact with these migrant workers. Their dormitories reduce the land value of residential zones. Their industrial dirt and smells are unwelcome on public transportation. Their culture and behavior are in many ways misunderstood and mocked.
On 8 December 2013, Singapore witnessed its first civil riot in 40 years. Migrant Indian workers rose in anger after an accident killed one of their own on the streets of Little India. Many Singaporeans went to social media to vent their frustration. Using derogative terms against the lower-class migrant population and making xenophobic remarks to the Indian race in general. An immediate parliamentary session raised concerns over public outrage and increasing xenophobia. Instead of re-evaluating the state in which these migrant workers are living in, the government and media attributed the violence to abuse of alcohol. To solve the problem, an alcoholic ban after 10pm nationwide ensued.
This is the new social condition facing the main character Siva. He returns to society after eight years in prison to discover a new reality where race and identity are socio-political and as an ex-convict, he falls into the fringes of contemporary society where the poor and marginalized live. He has become just like an immigrant, displaced psychologically, spatially and temporally. In this world of outsiders, he searches for his ex-wife and daughter who have left him. There are hints from the people he encounters that his past crime has damaged their lives. He embarks on this quest not only for redemption and salvation from those he loves and has hurt, but also for a desire for identity and sense of home.
AKANGA FILM ASIA