Directed By Diya Tan
Produced By Quek Hui Min, Helmi Ali
Director of Photography PK Tan
This film was produced as a final-year project in the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. All Rights Reserved 2008.
downstair. A colloquial and affectionate term used by many when referring to the areas below their public housing blocks, “downstairs” is also the apt title for this Singaporean documentary.
Unfolding over a 24-hour period, downstairs marries meaningful and colourful visuals with an audio collage to tell the personal stories of its users.
With random and diverse profiles as supporting cast to the protagonist – “downstairs”, this high definition short documentary shares anecdotes of community, love, dreams and memories.
Moving from the rustic charms of the old neighbourhoods to the swanky sophistication of the newer estates, it also documents change, in the form of transient meanings that exists between man and space.
downstairs features heartwarming and candid displays of human interaction, sometimes tinged with innocent humour, showing how a space is not just a space but something that is full of life.
With 80% of the Singaporean population living in public housing flats, downstairs is a peek into the nation’s culture and identity.
This short film, “downstair” shot in the year 2007 by a group of students from the WKWSCI at Nanyang Technological University surmise the social memory that every Singaporean living in the HDB housing estates have, the bit and pieces that is unique to every individual as highlighted in the last segment of the film. These social memories are important constructors of our society, our migrant society. With the latest population figures showing 40% of the population now are made up by migrants. These social memory will eventually be made into part of our history, the Singapore history. In another recent short film by Iszaly Mohd Iza titled “Corridor”. This 90 second short film won a jury prize in a local competition organised by the Civic Life community project. In the film, the author recalls childhood memories of playing along the HDB corridor. According to him, corridors these days are no longer enjoyable because they are empty. Unlike HDB flats in the 70s, the later HDB flats featured short corridors which breaks up the social rhythm of long common corridors joining neighbours’ homes together(1).
All these films laments the disappearance of such activities in HDB housing estates. With the recent media ever portraying eventful communities and resident led activities in the housing estates. It makes me wonder if what the media portraying is true? Or it only signifies only a small portion of the whole HDB resident population. The final question will be the disappearance of this “activities” in housing estates is was this disappearance caused by the change of lifestyles by citizen or was it caused by the change in the architecture of flats in the estates.?
Benjamin Low and Mui Rui Yi, 2011, A House is not a Home, Academic discourse done at LASALLE College of the Arts, Media Arts program 2011,