Set in Singapore, IN TIME TO COME follows the ritualistic exhuming of an old state time capsule, and the compilation of another. As enigmatic remnants of life from 25 years ago emerge – a bottle of water from the Singapore River, a copy of Yellow Pages – today's selection of items are carefully primed for the future to decode. Interwoven are carefully composed shots of moments we rarely think to preserve: the in-between minutes of daily life spent waiting, shot in locales as diverse as the lush jungle to a residential district subdued with haze.
This picture of Singapore is both lovely and startlingly strange, already slipping beyond the present its inhabitants struggle to hold in their hands. Like the time capsules in the film, this film itself is a vessel that transports us through past, present and future, a prism through which we glimpse alternate realities. The latest movie gifted by observer Tan Pin Pin takes its thematic DNA from her previous bold, intelligent work, but leads its audience into uncharted cinematic territory.
62 min, 1:1.78, 5.1 Audio, DCP
Director & Producer
Tan Pin Pin
Director Tan Pin Pin chronicles the gaps in history, memory and documentation. Her films study the process of self-examination itself, rendering its complexities with emotional power and visual clarity. They have screened at the Berlinale, Busan, Cinema du Réel, SXSW and at the Flaherty Seminar. She was recently awarded for her 2013 feature, To Singapore, with Love (banned in Singapore) from Dubai International Film Festival. Previously, Invisible City won at Cinema du Réel. Singapore GaGa was voted Best Film 2006 by Singapore's The Straits Times. Her short film Pineapple Town was one of seven in the acclaimed omnibus film 7 Letters that was Singapore's submission to the Oscars. IN TIME TO COME is her fourth long documentary. Tan is on the "Asian Cinema 100" list of top 100 Directors compiled by Busan International Film Festival and Busan Film Center.
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When I started what eventually became this film, I was collecting images around the topic of public rituals that defined our daily lives. For example, school flag-raising ceremonies, fire drills, morning greetings by staff at department stores and opening ceremonies. Rituals by their definition are repetitive and they recur across time, so there was an atemporal aspect to what I had filmed. I wondered, could these rituals, shot over four years, be edited together to be a commentary on modern life and on Singapore?
Since the period of this shooting also coincided with the commemoration of 50 years of Singapore’s independence, there were many commemorative rituals that I recorded too. One of them was the preparation of time capsules to commemorate this state event. We shot the preparation of the objects and the sealing of the capsules. At the same time, there were old time capsules being exhumed and their contents were revealed and cleaned before us, and we filmed them too.
Time capsules embody man’s desire to contain the past, present and future, all in one object. The preparation of them spoke of the present’s perception of a future time, while their eventual exhumation referenced the past’s vision of the future too, as seen from the present. In that, time capsules are very similar to films.
I have always felt that the act of seeing and recording is tied with the act of remembering, so from very early on, we wanted the framing to be wide and the shots paced in a stately manner. In effect, leaving an image on long enough, with enough detail and context so that it makes an imprint in the mind’s eye.
We found that splicing footage of very deliberate and ritualistic preparations of the time capsule together with our wide shots of daily rituals gave the film an otherworldly, strange yet familiar tone. In the edit, the past, present and future seemed to collapse together, giving the film a sci-fi bent. When this possibility opened up, we pushed the angle in the sound design. The film then became a surprising journey in and out of different time spaces, sometimes two spaces at once, a journey that is never signposted.
Like most films of this nature, we glimpsed the film’s nature through the long process of editing, a glimpse that become more concrete and sharpened during the sound design of the film.
Yong Shuling is a Singaporean documentary filmmaker who has worked on films like Radical Grace (2015, dir. Rebecca Parrish), In the Game (2015, dir. Maria Finitzo), The Feeling of Being Watched (dir. Assia Boundaoui), and America to Me (dir. Steve James). In 2015, Shuling directed Growing Roots, which premiered on the Discovery Channel. Shuling is a 2013 Diverse Voices in Docs fellow, a participating filmmaker at the 2017 BRITDOC Queer Impact Producers Lab, the 2014 DocNet Southeast Asia Strategy Workshop and 2016 Video For Change Forum. Her in-progress feature documentary, Intuition, was selected for Good Pitch² Southeast Asia 2017. She is the founder of social enterprise Media For Social Change.
Jasmine Kin Kia Ng
Jasmine Ng’s first feature, Eating Air (1999), co-directed with Kelvin Tong, broke new ground for Singapore and made its mark on the international film festival circuit. Previously she was the editor of Eric Khoo’s 12 Storeys and co-director and producer of Moveable Feast. Jasmine serves as a consultant on production development and marketing strategies in Singapore, and mentors young filmmakers. Jasmine has also conceptualised many cross-disciplinary works, including the public art-engagement PRISM project and installation project Both Sides, Now.
Martyn See is a documentary filmmaker and editor. His editing credits include feature films directed by Eric Khoo and Jack Neo. His documentaries on Singapore’s political dissidents have been criminalised and banned by the government. He co-edited two of Tan Pin Pin's films, Singapore GaGa and Invisible City.
Amelia Su is a filmmaker based in Singapore. She was associate producer, editor and cinematographer for the 2015 feature documentary The Songs We Sang, which set a box-office record for independent doucmentary in Singapore. As an editor, Amelia has worked for local directors such as Glen Goei and Eva Tang. For television, she has also edited documentaries and promos for local and international networks such as Channel NewsAsia, BBC, CNN, A&E Networks and Discovery.
Brian McDairmant is a Scottish director of photography best known for his documentary work for the BBC, Channel 4, PBS, and other documentary channels like National Geographic and Discovery. He has received BAFTA, Emmy and RTS award nominations for films that include Ape to Man, The Search for Longitude, Galileo’s Daughter and The First Emperor. Brian’s work for the BBC’s Natural History unit includes Life of Mammals, Wild China, The Trials of Life and Planet Earth with David Attenborough. He moved to Singapore in 2009 and set up a production company, TWO CHIEFS Films.
Michael Zaw is a film and television cinematographer. His feature film credits include Hotel 69, Unlucky Plaza, 7 Letters (GPS) and The Faith of Anna Waters. He has also lensed several award-winning television shows such as Baby Bumps, Zero Calling, Two Boys and a Mermaid, The Play Ground and Rehai. He has twice won “Best Cinematography” at the Singapore Short Film Awards and his recent work on the film A Yellow Bird was nominated at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in the Semaine de la Critique (Critics’ Week) Awards.
Lim Ting Li
Lim Ting Li is a sound designer, re-recording mixer and Foley artist. She has worked on films (including Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice) that have traveled to Cannes, Berlin, Rotterdam, Sundance and Busan. She won the Verna Fields Award in Sound Editing at the MPSE Golden Reel Awards in Los Angeles in 2014. In 2010, she was one of two sound designers selected to attend the Asian Film Academy headed by Abbas Kiarostami at the Busan International Film Festival. She is the Director of Sound at Mocha Chai Laboratories, the only one-stop post facility in Singapore.