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Film as story-telling tool for causes

06 March 2013

Mr Viswa Sadasivan, Chairman of the U@live organising committee, with Mr Tan (right) at the forum

Film, as a medium, can have a lasting impact. NUS alumnus Mr Tan Bee Thiam witnessed this first-hand when he made a short film to raise funds for the medical treatment of Cyrus Yap, a Filipino who was at NUS as part of the Singapore International Foundation ASEAN Fellowship programme. Cyrus was undergoing kidney dialysis and later needed a bone marrow transplant. His journey and challenges faced during the treatment were captured on film by Mr Tan, who shared this personal experience at the latest U@live forum on 27 February.

"You make movies because you need them," said the founding member of the film collective, "13 Little Pictures", which has produced over 15 feature and short films shown in places such as Rotterdam, Berlin and Tokyo. Mr Tan is also the editor of Cinemas of Asia which is the journal of the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema.

"There is no better time to make movies. Things are happening and people are fighting for causes be it for animals or freedom of speech," highlighted Mr Tan. In fact, he noted that "only we can tell our stories".

To document such stories, he started the non-governmental organisation Asian Film Archive after graduating from NUS. The organisation keeps the rich film heritage of Singapore and Asian cinemas, encourages scholarly research on film and promotes a wider critical appreciation of film. It is an affiliate of the International Federation of Film Archives and a member of the Southeast Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Archives Association.

On why he chose film-making as a career, Mr Tan, who graduated with an engineering degree, said that he likes to think of himself as not an exception but one of many. He credits NUS for offering a broad-based education, allowing him to pursue activities such as film-making with the Centre for the Arts and join the NUS Overseas College programme, attending classes at Stanford University.

He later fielded questions from the audience, including what being entrepreneurial means to him and what the catalysts are for inspiring films to emerge.

A monthly forum, U@live showcases illustrious alumni of NUS who have been indefatigable in championing causes that make this a better world.