Singapore on Screen: Six Films Shot Around the City

by SEA Wave
SEA Wave - Singapore on Film
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By: Rachelle Wu

 

Concerning a glimpse of all things old, lost or forgotten in Singapore, you can still find them on screen. From hawker markets that transformed into shopping malls to the Boat Quay as a port trade, these legendary landmarks found in the country, although gone, have left memories and will never be forgotten just like what can be seen in archives.

Given the urban redevelopments that defined the modern city of Singapore, the diversity of landscapes and architecture adds a significant flavor to a film’s authenticity up till the present day. Here is a list of amazing Singaporean films available to stream in 2022 that encapsulates the urban renewal and transformation of the city:

Ramen Teh (2018)

SEA Wave - Ramen Teh

Stills from MK2 Films

Directed by Eric Khoo, Ramen Teh is a story about family, separation and reunion, punctuated by the unique melting pot of Singaporean cuisine. A cultural and culinary fusion tale that seeks to warm the heart, unlike most of Eric Khoo’s tales of the dark and perverted underbelly of Singapore society. This tale is one of a Japanese-Chinese chef’s journey to find his long-lost family. It includes the appearance of the apartments of the Housing and Development Board (HDB) as well as crowd-favorite, popular hawker stalls that highlight the city state’s diversity.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

A Land Imagined (2018)

SEA Wave - A Land Imagined

Stills from Netflix

Written and directed by Yeo Siew Hua, the film touches on the unseen life of Singapore’s migrant workers. It tells the story of a Chinese laborer who vanished while working on a building site of a land reclamation project, and the efforts of a world-weary detective to track him down. The thriller is tied to Singapore’s dramatic transformation – from the importation of sand from other parts of Asia to the expansion of the city’s land – showing its development, for better or for worse.

Where to watch: Netflix

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Debuting around the same time with the previous mentioned film, Crazy Rich Asians was a Hollywood box-office hit that stood out for its cultural authenticity, bringing in all-Asian cast and an Asian-American lead. Crazy Rich Asians is a pure escapist fantasy about an Asian-American woman meeting her boyfriend’s colorful and crazy-rich family in Singapore. The modern, opulent lifestyle also showcases some well-known sights, such as the impressive waterfront skyline and the Marina Bay Sands.

Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

Ilo Ilo (2013)

SEA Wave - Ilo Ilo

Photo from Singapore Film Commission

Director Anthony Chen was only twenty-nine years old when his feature debut, Ilo Ilo, made a smashing premiere at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, winning the critics over and bagging the Caméra d’Or, becoming the first Singaporean film to ever receive the prestigious honor. Simple and restrained, the ninety-nine-minute family drama follows a family’s growing bond with their newly recruited domestic helper. Inspired by his personal childhood having grown up with a Filipina live-in nanny between the ages of four to twelve, Chen captured a side of middle class Singaporean culture that was not well known to the general public at the time.

Where to watch: Amazon prime, Apple TV

Saint Jack (1979)

SEA Wave - Saint Jack

Still from Netflix

Way before the upcoming of Crazy Rich Asians, Hollywood had already made its foray into Singapore with a little film called Saint Jack, which was the only American film to ever be entirely shot on location in the country (at the time). Jack Flowers played by Ben Gazzara is America-born hustler who has settled down in Singapore. In the event of acquiring a visa, he works in a Chinese firm, but he spends most of his time running a prostitution ring and dealing with pimps, gangs, and other unwholesome things.

The film features various landmarks in Singapore, showing what the city looks like back in the ‘70s. Today, all remnants of the old world have been given a new coat of paint so some of these might not be recognizable. You can view what these places looked like before and in the present in this video by YouTube user Colin Hexr.

Where to watch: Amazon prime

Shirkers (2018)

SEA Wave - Shirkers

Photos from Netflix

In 1992, Sandi Tan, along with friends Jasmine Kin Kia Ng and Sophia Siddique Harvey, set out to make a movie in Singapore with the help of a their “mentor” Georges Cardona. But when filming wrapped up, Cardona disappeared, taking all the cans of film with him and crushing the dreams of the young filmmakers. Decades later, the footage was returned to them, dredging up the past and inspiring Sandi Tan to dig into the mystery of Cardona and why he did what he did.

The original road trip movie features shots from all around Singapore, capturing the zeitgeist of ‘90s counter-culture from the point of view of Singaporean teens and their lost and recovered dreams.

Where to watch: Netflix

What is your favorite movie set in Singapore? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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