Singapore Festival: HBO Asia Tells ‘Invisible Stories’

HBO Asia has expanded its burgeoning production slate with six-episode half-hour series “Invisible Stories.” The first two episodes of the show, “Lian” and “Chuan,” play at the Singapore International Film Festival on Nov. 28.

The series is by writer and director Ler Jiyuan, who previously directed part of HBO Asia Original series “Grisse.” “Like 80% of Singaporeans, I live in a Housing Development Board flat, in a regular HDB public housing estate,” Ler told Variety. “ ‘Invisible Stories’ is pretty much the world that I came from. I grew up in a three-room flat in Ang Mo Kio (residential town), back in the 1990s. My father was a taxi driver, my mother a factory worker who eventually lost her job during a financial crisis. The life I live, the people I see, were all inspirations for ‘Invisible Stories.’ For example, just two doors down from me was a spiritual medium who turned his flat into a temple. And this also happens to be the subject matter for episode 2 of ‘Invisible Stories’.”

“I like the genuineness of the characters Ler depicts,” Jessica Kam, senior VP, of HBO Asia original productions told Variety. “They struggle in their own peculiar situations living in the underbelly of Singapore, but I feel their emotional journeys are relatable across all cultures.”

Reflecting Singapore’s multicultural nature, the series features talent from around the South East Asia region. They include Taiwan’s Devin Pan (“Floating Flowers In The Wind”); Thailand’s Suchada Muller (“Insects In The Backyard”); Malaysia’s Gavin Yap (“The Bridge”); Bangladesh’s Sudip Biswas (“Sutopar Thikana”); and Indonesia’s Sekar Sari (“Siti”). A galaxy of Singapore talent includes: Yeo Yann Yann (“Wet Season”); Wang Yu Qing (“Hello From The Other Side”); Regina Lim (“Not So Long Time Ago“); Aden Tan (“Lion Mums”); and Sunny Pang (“Code of Law”).

“Lately, there have been impressions formed of Singapore – that we are an incredibly wealthy nation filled with people who speak immaculate English,” says Ler. “However, the majority of Singapore simply isn’t like that. So I felt that it was necessary to show international audiences a different side of Singapore. Who we really are – a melting pot of different races, languages and dialects. Many interesting personalities, each with great stories to tell.”

Ler created the series with a team of local writers. Singapore-based outfit Birdmandog produced.

The series is part of a two-year partnership with Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), by which a series of workshops and collaborations with local companies and talent on HBO Asia Original productions aims to develop the content production capabilities of the country’s media industry.

On the back of “Invisible Stories”, HBO Asia is also running a short film competition to invite emerging filmmakers to submit untold stories from their own neighborhoods. Winners will be featured on streaming platform HBO GO.

“Invisible Stories” will be available on HBO and HBO GO from Jan. 5, 2020.

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