It’s been half a year since Kopimotion opened its virtual doors, and we’re truly thankful for all the support, criticism and engagement we’ve received! In the spirit of year-end openness, I’m reflecting on what Kopimotion has done this year, and how we’re moving forward.
In this same spirit of honesty, let me first admit that Kopimotion’s conception and launch was fraught with apprehension. I don’t think of myself as a cinephile at all, nor am I the most well-watched and well-read when it comes to Singaporean screen culture and society. We already have enough public thinkers on Facebook, I thought to myself, and a bunch of film and arts reviewers; what could I add to the mix?
What I did have was not a resource to share, but an aim to fill a gap. In between thought leaders on theatre, literature and film, I felt like more attention could be paid to popular things; things that exert subtle influences on Singaporean minds despite sliding past the critic’s and reviewer’s eye. Working within this niche, and between formal and everyday registers of thought and writing, I operated on the ins and outs of various borders of meaning-making, trying to find a new voice that could think through our screens more intelligently and critically.
Do I think I’ve arrived at an ideal place? Not really; for one, I haven’t even decided on whether I identify as a reviewer. (Expect a future piece on this!) I also think I still have some way to go in terms of developing a voice that is both rigorous and intimate. Nonetheless, this is not a worry by any means. To borrow from a foundational piece of text that has stuck with me ever since I first encountered it in school, identity is “[n]ot an essence but a positioning“. I am, like the Singaporean screen and the psyches, ghosts, landscapes and dreams it conjures, always in a state of arriving. It is in the process of writing, through which one sees a series of inclusions, exclusions, aspirations and repressions, that I reimagine myself and my project anew. Like the cinematic screen, which thus becomes a site on which the self congeals, my writing is the screen through which I behold, confront, reunite with all that I am.
While I think my own writing hasn’t quite worked its way out of this space of in-betweens, I think Kopimotion’s track record has settled down rather well!
On hindsight, I’ve spent the past half a year thinking about how screen media creates and/or disturbs boundaries. I began with trauma and haunting in Demons by Daniel Hui, and moved on to gender and national identity in 23:59 and Phua Chu Kang.
And here at this point of my journey so far, I spy a turn into the camera as an instrument of sociological commentary; to be audacious, this is where I would say Kopimotion began coming into itself properly. “Nobody” from the HBO Folklore series became a pivot through which I started thinking about how narratives have begun excavating unspoken realities, communities and peoples that Singapore’s entire conscious existences are built upon. Similarly, Lion Mums/I Not Stupid and the Deepavali PSA video were interesting meditations on how even the supposedly liberating narratives we tell ourselves are often bounded within the inescapable confines of our social realities. Other popular screen texts, such as the “Semoga Bahagia” MV and NTUC Income’s “The Promise”, suggested that the screen can never truly aspire beyond the mundane but pressing realities of social engineering.
In fact, some of the texts I’ve analysed seem to mourn the difficulty of ever moving beyond these entrenched obstacles. “Runaway” by Subhas and Dnl. paints a picture of what it means to be penat, to find so much difficulty in eking out a dignified existence that one might just prefer dissolving into the air instead. “Stranger Things” by Nigel Cheah and Royal Estate grieves over the loss of a happier childhood.
Nonetheless, there is light after the darkness. My close reading of Preetipls’ “E8”, which I describe with some pride as my first blockbuster article, gave me hope that we have artists who are committed to ushering in a more equitable Singapore. Similarly, Religious Procession by Dave Lim focuses on writing over differences with an acknowledgement of our similarities. $alary Day by R. Madhavan is a notable film that relocates dignity and self-representation onto the figure of the migrant worker, and A Land Imagined concludes our year of writing with a dreamlike look into the unheard voices and figures that hold our land together. With these heartfelt and authentic expositions of the ins and outs, the beautiful and ugly parts of our Singapore, I am renewed with the hope that we might one day collectively imagine a better society for all.
That’s how far we’ve come this year – and thanks very much, once again, to everyone who’s stuck around with us! Your support, emails, criticism and insight have reaffirmed my decision to embark on this writing project. There is no such thing as enough speech, especially in Singapore’s discourse; we need more people to start thinking through our films, TV shows and online videos, because critical media and cultural literacy is a way forward into a smarter and kinder society. I’m honoured that Kopimotion has helped to open up this space for us.
In light of this, here’s how I’d like to move forward: I’d like you to come on board! If you have a critical idea you’d like to develop about any Singapore screen text, be it pop or fringe, new or old, please do write in to us at email@example.com so we can launch your piece into the e-verse! I’ve been writing almost entirely by myself, and I would love to open up this space to more people so we can create a collaborative community together.
I’m so excited for the new year! Thank you for sticking around once again, and I wish you a year of goodness ahead.
Ben, the Editor