Film as a Cathartic Response to Political, Economic and Educational Alienation in Singapore

Dr Yeow-Tong Chia1, Miss Soo Ei Yap2

1University Of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 2Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, China

The cinema should not be seen merely a place of mindless entertainment, but instead as a site of social deconstruction where the social ironies of a society are laid bare to a captive audience. Using the case of Singapore from 1995 to 2005, this paper provides an example of how film serves as a successful avenue for the creative expression of political and economic discontent, even as political and social peace continue to reign on the outside. It argues that the frustrations of daily life brought about by economic inequality, political powerlessness, and a rigidly elitist education system have begun to be reflected in reel life, within the safe haven of commercial theatres and independent screening venues, even as social structures on the outside continue to perpetuate their inequalities.


Dr. Yeow-Tong Chia is Senior Lecturer in History Curriculum Education in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. He is currently the Singapore Country Coordinator with the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, as well as the President of the Malaysia and Singapore Society of Australia.

Yap Soo Ei is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the Hong Kong Baptist University. She has published a chapter in A General History of the Chinese in Singapore (National Heritage Board, 2019) and was a curator for six years with the National Museum of Singapore.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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