Two students win short film competition
The films focused on family members – an uncle who found solace with puppies after falling and a grandmother who visits her past with her helper.
Two short films made by students from Yale-NUS College clinched the top prizes in the first Modern Aging Short Film Content. Twenty-one-year-old Rachel Quek took the first prize of S$5,000 with her film titled “For my dearest kuku and amah”, that focuses on her 66-year-old uncle, Tan Chin Wah, who collapsed when walking home in June of this year. The doctors had advised him to stay at home to recover for a few months. During this period, his support (and bond) became five puppies, who has kept him active, listened to him and made him happy.
“I decided to focus on my uncle as he had an interesting story to share – he used to go out everyday before he fell down and I wanted to explore how the change in mobility affected him,” shared Rachel, who when she goes back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she lives with her extended family including her 85-year-old grandmother, as well as several other single relatives – her uncle in the film, a 69-year-old granduncle, and a 59-year-old aunt.
She explained that her uncle is a very quiet man who would take care of the dogs and puppies everyday in the morning before he went out and in the evening when he returned. Since falling down, he tries to keep active by doing housework and accompanying Rachel’s grandmother. “The dogs are great companions to both my uncle and grandmother as they keep them active through their barking and mischief. The dogs also force them to interact with each other during feeding time and when they talk about the mischievous puppies. Often, during my filming, my grandmother and uncle would comment and laugh at the antics of our puppies and dogs.”
On what she has learnt about ageing from her uncle and grandmother, Rachel answered: “That growing old can get really lonely as you are physically less mobile and it is difficult to connect with the younger generation.
“I think what we can do is to continuously engage them through talking to them, listening to their stories, showing that you care (for example, sometimes I buy my grandmother her favourite cake and cut her nails when I come back to Kuala Lumpur), bonding over similar things (for example, my cousin bonds with my grandmother over Taiwanese Hokkien dramas), and most of all being patient with them.
“Sometimes I misunderstand my uncle and grandmother because we come from different generations and I think they appreciate when I take the time to understand where they are coming from. Also, seniors come with a wealth of stories to share, and you can learn so much about your own history from them! So care for them and treat them the same way you would treat a close friend; that gives them something to look forward to everyday instead of living a routine.”
The second prize of S$2,000 went to 22-year-old Janel Ang who did a film called “Balek Kampung” (meaning going home in Baba Malay). The film is about her 80-year-old grandmother, Jessie Soh, who explores places of her past with her Burmese domestic helper, Chaw Su Hlaing (Sulai), who is in her late 20s.
Janel shared, “Ageing can be frustrating but beautiful all at the same time. My grandmother carries many scars and heartaches from her past, but she also struggles with a waning memory. I wonder sometimes if forgetting can become a coping mechanism. Mama selectively remembers the beautiful moments of her difficult marriage, the loss of her son, and learns to laugh at her own forgetful tendencies.
“Like Sulai, I am also distanced from Mama’s stories, encumbered by her unreliable memory. Yet, Sulai is an amazing portrait of patience – a lesson for us all in relating to the elderly. As we use technology to record our present experiences, we cannot take for granted that they will remain stored somewhere tangible. We must also take time to walk alongside the elderly while they are still with us, carrying a consciousness of their beautiful frailty in our hearts.”