YIDFF 2005 New Asian Currents
Diminishing Memories
An Interview with Eng Yee Peng (Director)

I Want Everyone to Know

Q: Why did you decide to make a film that traces your own memories?

EY: From the 1960s onwards, many Singaporeans have been forced to relocate, but there has never been a documentary expressing what was going on in their minds. The situation was that I had left my village as a young child, and I realized how much the village had influenced me only once I began filming. So I felt a sense of responsibility about making the film.

Q: What were the national policies that made it necessary for people to relocate?

EY: The relocations were unavoidable as an aspect of the national development plan. In the case of my village, the national defense ministry used the land for military training. The national development plan began in the 1960s, and there was development for housing, factories and industry. My own village entered into the development plan in the 1980s.

Q: There was something tremendously appealing about the narration for this piece. Were there things you paid special attention to?

EY: Since this is my own story, I am the only person in the world who knows my feelings about it. A close friend suggested it would be difficult for me to do the narration since my English isn’t that great, and I worried about it a lot. This time I wanted to convey the story in my own words so I did the narration myself, even though I’m not a pro at English and my pronunciation might be terrible. I wanted to do the speaking even if it is done poorly, since in the end it is a personal work. I am really pleased to know that you found my narration to be appealing.

Q: I thought the animation of the dog was very sad. Was there something that changed within you when you left your dog behind?

EY: I think I was suppressing my sadness, even though I was just a child. I went along without really letting it come to the surface, but when I started filming I realized that it is really important. This film made me realize that this sadness is higher than a mountain, wider than the sky. After I started the editing, there was a period of around ten days that I spent crying. Leaving my dog behind, myself leaving the village, and having to leave behind my own childhood—the impact of these things was much greater than I had imagined. Near the house where I am currently living, there is a dog that looks exactly like the one I left behind. But I avoided even petting the dog, and unconsciously I stayed away from it. Now I’ve realized that came from the memories of the dog I had left behind.

Q: It is tough to communicate personal aspects of yourself in a film, but I think the piece works precisely because in a sense you were able to objectively portray those things.

EY: Naturally the film is subjective, since it is really personal for me. I tried to make the piece more persuasive by including interviews with politicians and people from the village to give it balance, and intentionally used cheerful narration to contrast with the sad experience.

Q: What are you planning for your next work?

EY: I want to continue making documentaries. I’m in the process of searching, since I put a lot of passion into this work and for my next film I need a subject that I can approach with the same degree of passion. Singapore is only known overseas as a very clean and isolated country where new technology has made a lot of strides. In this work, I wanted to show that in the background there are also people who have gone through tough experiences. The themes I want to deal with in the future are probably along the same line. I want to convey to the world the stories of people who have been underrepresented, whose voices have not been heard.

(Compiled by Sato Akari)

Interviewers: Sato Akari, Hashiura Taichi / Interpreter: Kawaguchi Yoko
Photography: Abe Satsuki / Video: Yamaguchi Mika / 2005-10-09