Review: ‘Invisible City’

Tan Pin Pin (“Singapore GaGa”) continues her examination of the island state’s “blind spots” with another bittersweet short feature.

Documaker Tan Pin Pin (“Singapore GaGa”) continues her examination of the island state’s “blind spots” with another bittersweet short feature, “Invisible City.” Poorly organized but touching on fascinating areas of official and personal self-denial, the film highlights aspects of the island’s hidden history prior to independence in 1965. With some tweaking, this could graduate beyond the fest circuit to pubcaster slots.

Tan freely shuttles among various threads: a bunch of curious young archeologists excavating a WWII fort buried in one of the island’s few remaining wild spots; an elderly Brit resident with a failing memory, Ivan Polunin, who’s racing to preserve his personal archive of docu color footage shot during the ‘50s; a onetime leftist student activist who suffered during the postwar anti-communist crackdown by the British colonial government; a former member of the Malayan Communist Party with horror stories of Japanese torture; and veteran English photog Marjorie Doggett’s beautiful black-and-white pictures of long-lost colonial architecture. Together, these build a fascinating but raggedy impression of Singaporean history largely ignored by official accounts, though general viewers aren’t helped by Tan’s scattershot approach. Tech package is so-so. Chinese title means “memorandum.”

Invisible City



A Point Pictures presentation. (International sales: Point, Singapore.) Produced, directed by Tan Pin Pin.


Camera (color, DV), Ryan Seet, Tan; editor, Inez Ang. (Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival — Forum), Feb. 8, 2008. Mandarin title: Bei wang lu. English, Mandarin, Japanese dialogue. Running time: 60 MIN. (PAL).


Lim Cheu-sian, Wee Sheau-theng, Yeo Kang-shua, Chua Ai-hua, Ivan Polunin, Siew-yin Polunin, Han Tan-juan, Chan Cheow-thia, Teng Siao-see, Guo Ren-huey, Ho Kit-meng, Ogura Izumi, Ng Chun-kit, Marjorie Doggett, Tomoko Fuwa, Koh Tai-ann, Ong Chang-woei.

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