Invisible City (备忘录)

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Clever advertising for Invisible City at the Arts House — except that if you were already there then there was a good chance you were already going to watch it, like the Better Half and I.

Still, great concept (probably by Mindwasabi) that echoes the subject matter of Tan Pin Pin’s latest documentary very well.

(You’d probably have read all the reviews by now, so I don’t need to tell you that Invisible City is about how people remember and how those memories are recorded or – often – not)

She said, during the post-screening Q&A, that one of the points she wanted to make is that the act of remembering — whether dredging up personal memories, re-recording old footage, or literally digging in old army forts — requires much effort and time. The process is painstaking.

Invisible City is also meant to be a record of its own, as the Mandarin title implies. 备忘录 might be the more accurate title: a record prepared with the expectation that one will forget.

Moreover, it seems clear that remembering is rarely appreciated, in this country at least. In the documentary Han Tan Juan, trying to carve out what he sees as the rightful place of 1960s Chinese student activists in Singapore’s history, remarks after a talk he gave to students that they didn’t seem to care about his story, let alone Singapore’s history.

So at the risk of sounding trite, this work is as much about forgetting as it is about remembering. If I may borrow Alex Au’s words:

By the end of the film, I was slumped in my seat, feeling quite defeated. Ken Kwek, a Straits Times journalist, told me on the way out that far from showing us how history is recorded, the film showed “how big the gaps are”.

(earlier posts on Invisible City)

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