Prolific Singaporean filmmaker Kelvin Tong‘s latest feature “A Year Of No Significance,” which has its world premiere at the 34th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), mourns the loss of a generation.
Set in Singapore in 1979, the film chronicles the gradual disintegration of a middle-aged architect as changes rock the 45th year of his life. Sidelined in the office because of his inability to speak English, Lim Cheng Soon is cut further adrift when his wife inexplicably leaves him. His elderly father moves in, forcing him to confront the fact that the former has always preferred his younger brother. Robbed of his identities as architect, husband and son, Cheng Soon struggles in the dusk of his life.
The cast includes Peter Yu, Tan Tiow Im, Mandy Chen and Naomi Yeo. Tong made his feature debut with “Eating Air” and has made several features since, including “Love Story” (2006), which won best director at the 19th SGIFF. His last film was “Confinement,” which released earlier this year.
“The language policies of Singapore in the 1970s affected a lot of people in ways profound and intimate. It’s not a subject that is discussed often. As a filmmaker, I am as affected by sound as I am with sight. As that generation of the Chinese-educated is dying out, I felt compelled to make a film about them before they are all gone,” Tong told Variety.
The filmmaker sees parallels between contemporary Singapore and the country as it was in the 1970s, “every day,” he said. “Every policy carries a benefit and a cost. Some will get ahead; others will invariably be left behind. The rationale behind all well-intentioned policies is that they serve the majority good. So while we celebrate the progress, what I’d like with ‘A Year Of No Significance’ is to pay a moment’s attention to those who suffer.”
“A Year Of No Significance” is produced by Kat Goh, Leon Tong and Jasmine Ng. “Kelvin has always wanted to make a film about the Chinese-educated in Singapore. I know it’s a hard-sell commercially but the subject is a worthy one. So, after a string of commercial work, I felt it was time he got it off his chest and go make that difficult film ‘A Year Of No Significance’ would later turn out to be,” Leon Tong told Variety.
Next up for both Kelvin Tong and Leon Tong is a return to Malaysia. “I had a very enriching time shooting my last film, ‘Confinement,’ in Malaysia. I’m working on a script that will allow me to work there again. It’s a fascinating place of science and superstitions. I’d like to explore the fault lines,” Kelvin Tong said.
Leon Tong added, “Like Kelvin, I am exploring production opportunities in Malaysia. It’s a land of great variety. I’m slowly getting to know the film industry there and working out how we can find symbiosis.”
MM2 Entertainment will open “A Year Of No Significance” theatrically in Singapore on Dec. 7. “We will also explore distribution opportunities for the film in other countries and platforms,” an MM2 Entertainment spokesperson told Variety.