4 December 2010 | LinJason
Challenging the stereotypical values of film genre and society
Budget productions do not necessarily translate into inferiority as Director Han Yew Kwang's latest local feature film brings heartland laughter via a unique norm opposing romance comedy offering. Featuring intrinsic details of the Singaporean life through the eyes of the Hainanese female and Teochew male leads, it brings forth certain blatant truth in our lives beyond the entertaining facade of comedy.
Hainan-boy is essentially a lady physiologically who crosses path with Ms. Teochew, likewise in a male body state. Having these two unconventional characters in our conservative society meet to explore the idea of companionship and romance is another giant step out of the norm (Han mentioned that both the main cast felt the possibility of such is a mere 1%).
They met through a series of fateful events that revolves around an item that typically conveys extreme sensitivity in our community - a woman's brassiere. It is the one undergarment item that is unique to the female anatomy, also one that complexly connects both genders ever since its invention. Because of its symbolism, it makes an appropriate medium of plot element.
The brassiere's intentions are truly beneficial to the changing roles of women in the society, allowing them more flexibility and a sense of security. Due to the integrity of what it's protecting, it is often considered a taboo for a male to be spotted with one, regardless of what he's doing with it.
So here we are, having the limited perception of the society applying derived restrictions in the forms of rules of interaction and behaviour within our community. If the sight of a manly lady and a feminine man is considered a form of disgust in today's context (and to think that most people around me claim to say that we are a liberal-minded bunch when they can't even accept a woman sporting short cropped hair), it is even more likely that most will distant themselves several yards even before the idea of the two in a relationship reaches them.
Challenging the stereotypical casting of gorgeous looking actors in a rom-com genre, this film ventures in opposite directions with average looking ones to test our perceptive acceptance.
Bearing high resemblance to our daily lives as Singaporeans, there is the element of cultural heritage conveyed through both dialect groups. It is said that Hainanese men make good husbands and Teochew ladies can be counted upon for their beauty. By having both main leads attributed with these two dialect identities, they do not only embody the concept of revolting against perceived gender demeanour prejudice but also the promotion of cultural heritage values that seem to be on the decline of recent.
More often than not, when both of them interact with each other, it feels like a cultural exchange. This is especially noted in a scene between Ms. Teochew, Hainan-boy and her ex- girlfriend Meihui (Yeo Yann Yann) where they share Hainanese and Teochew folklore sayings passed down from past generations only to be casually dismissed by the younger Meihui who represents the current generation. This is a disturbing trait of today's youth and it is debatable if such traditional heritage should be cultivated and retained within them.
Fun-filled with hilarity and credible cast performance, the two main characters eventually grew within me with such natural presence in comfort. This is the result of employing non- professionals to act their true selves on a project where they've also contributed a significant amount of details and ideas (construction of certain scenes). Besides the main leads, Yeo Yann Yann (with her high energy burst of vibrant youth) and Alaric Tay make great supporting cast with their performance to enhance the film in synergy.
It is really inspiring to see what independent film-makers in Singapore can achieve despite having budgeted financial and resource constraints. Shot on Canon 5D mkII and limited set locations (the residential flats are the casts' own), it is really comforting for budding film- makers to know that as long as you have the passion for film-making, just have your heart set and see it through. Director Han mentioned that an initial estimate of 9 days of production eventually escalated into over half a year, I guess this is largely due to the "part-time" nature of the project that is well-understandable.
With that, do enjoy 81 minutes of unconventional romantic comedy delight.