SGIFF: ‘I Dream of Singapore’ Kicks off Documentary Series on NGOs

Lei Yuan Bin’s Singapore International Film Festival world premiere “I Dream Of Singapore” is the first part of a multi-volume documentary series on overlooked local non-governmental organizations. It is produced by Glen Goei’s Singapore production house Tiger Tiger Pictures (“Revenge Of The Pontianak”).

The film is an observational documentary on the continuous labor flow from Bangladesh to Singapore, and the bonds that blossom between social workers and migrant laborers.

“When I was approached by Glen Goei and Tiger Tiger Pictures on this series, I was immediately drawn to explore the work of the Singapore NGO Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), its beneficiaries of mainly Bangladeshi migrant workers, and the subject of the hope-filled Bangladesh-Singapore labor flow – from one of the poorest to richest countries, respectively,” Lei told Variety. “This is because even as a Chinese-majority Singaporean, my films (both the documentary “03-Flats” and fiction films “Fundamentally Happy” and “White Days”) have explored the liminal, minority, and unjustly overlooked sectors of our society.”

“White Days” and “03-Flats” were both SGIFF selections, while “Fundamentally Happy” bowed at the Tallinn Black Nights festival.

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“Before ‘I Dream Of Singapore,’ I was aware of TWC2’s invaluable work, but documenting their journeys and their beneficiaries’ journeys has really opened my eyes to how much of Singapore’s economic prosperity is really thanks to transient workers,” said Lei.

“Migrant workers are everywhere around us, yet they have been discriminated against, taken for granted, and have an extremely challenging journey ahead of them in terms of supporting their families and realising their dreams back home in Bangladesh. Bengali and other nationalities of construction workers have literally built Singapore. Surely it is time we begin to appreciate, immerse ourselves in, and acknowledge their selfless contributions?”

Yeo Siew Hua’s “A Land Imagined,” a 2018 fiction feature that also dealt with transient labour in Singapore, won several awards around the world last year, including the top honours at Locarno and Singapore.

“I Dream Of Singapore” producer Dan Koh served as associate producer and script consultant on “A Land Imagined” and was one of the producers on Yeo’s 2014 music documentary documentary “The Obs: A Singapore Story.” Koh is currently mapping out the international festival trajectory of “I Dream Of Singapore”, while also reaching out to local audiences.

“I hope that not just local audiences will discover this film, but also the many transient workers who reside in and have built in Singapore,” Koh told Variety.

The next film in the documentary series is “Some Women” by Quenyee Wong, recipient of a 2019 Tan Ean Kiam Foundation-SGIFF Southeast Asian Documentary Grant. It explores what it means to be transgender in Singapore in 2019.