Independent Living empowers people with disabilities, and it’s the theme of this short film ‘Sleep Well, Mother’, a short film by Temasek Polytechnic graduates whose film is in-competition at Juree Singapore 2019.
It’s one thing just to use the word “empower”, or “support” when its used in the context of people with disabilities. In reality, those words mean that it’s a long journey that involves relationships, initiative, family and community networks.
Amanda, left, with Kee Wen, directors for the film Sleep Well, Mother
What does Independent Living mean?
‘Sleep Well, Mother’ is inspired by the personal story of Li Su Min, the sound recordist in this production. Similar to Damien (Li Su Yuan), Su Min’s family hoped to equip her brother with life skills, able to have a livelihood, and ready to care for himself to some extent.
Damien’s mother, Ah Li (Grace Chong Chee Yin), is faced with many hardships. One of them being a cancer diagnosis, for which she refuses treatment. She also sought the help of welfare officers, but Damien wasn’t agreeable to the arrangement.
She’s taken it on herself to teach Damien everything necessary to get by, including the simplest of tasks like a shower. It pays off, but it also takes a village.
A behind the scenes shot from the 2-month production Sleep Well, Mother
Everyone has to go the extra mile
Every day is an uphill battle and continues to be challenging. What mattered here is that in this story, Damien showed perseverance.
Su Min says: “I wanted to show viewers that actually people with disabilities can live just like us. And sometimes the problem doesn’t lie on people with disabilities, but it’s whether the society is willing to go the extra mile to accept and understand them. They can live independently like us.
It may take a lot of time and patience, but if we believe in them, they will eventually shine.”
Sleep Well, Mother, is a Temasek Polytechnic graduate film about a disabled son who finds his way to independent living
Perseverance is also the theme of the production, as there were many challenges to put this film together.
They were in production for two of the ten-month project, and as undergraduates, some of the learning curves were steep. Communication and team dynamics were one of them, shares co-director Kee Wen. Sourcing for locations was next, such as shooting in a HDB flat and managing the production hours and logistics of filming in a coffee shop.
Directing Su Yuan as Damien was also another challenge. Scenes with him were planned over fifteen days as he had a short attention span and needed more effort memorising the script.
But Su Yuan was a champ in it all: “We are grateful as Su Yuan was really understanding. He pulled through even when he was exhausted or had to skip his co-curricular activities.
“As he was a food lover, we came out with a reward system to motivate him, where he gets to ask for any food after the scenes were over.”
Sleep Well Mother is inspired by Li Su Min’s personal story about her family and her brother
The team also recast the role of Uncle Lim (Ng Lee Huat) after four days of production.
“That was not an easy decision to make. We realised that it was the right move if we wanted to present the Uncle Lim we had in mind to the audiences.”
We are glad with our actors and actresses portrayal of the roles, and how they have brought the viewers on a journey with this story.”