An Open Letter To Mothers, Mother Figures And Mothers-To-Be


For mothers, and mothers figures and mothers to be,

I can only assume that nobody ever understands the joys and heartbreaks of being mothers without being one themselves. I can only answer for myself, a son who is raised by a single mother widowed at a young age.

A scene with actress Oon Shu An in ‘Light By Bedside’ by JD Chua

From a young age, I was forced to grow up on my own and be more mature than my age. I thought I have myself covered, growing up on my own, feeding and dressing myself.

I didn’t realise that I was a child shielded by my mother from worry of having enough money to maintain our way of life. Only when I become of age, holding my own job, paying my own bills, I come to comprehend more of the burden she had.

I had robbed her of her youth and constantly made her worry.

Nathaniel Ng impressed everyone on the set with his maturity in his debut acting role

I may have a unique childhood.What I lived through is pretty tough, but it was very awesome. It was filled with heartbreaks and joy. Looking back, my perspective in life is shaped by my mother. I would never regard my life as a tragedy because she would not allow me to look at it with anger.

Her outlook in life is to always look at the positives, no matter how small they are and focus on them being the main part of life.

Besides being raised by my mother, I was raised by a group of women. Whenever I got into trouble, my cousins will be the first ones to bail me. My Godmother would take over in providing nurturing and wellbeing when my mother wasn’t around. My cousins and my Godmother had parts in my upbringing. They became mother figures to me.

During the production of ‘Light’, during a scene when Nathaniel Ng, playing the role of Boy, looks back at his mother (played by Oon Shu An) before heading to bed, he realises the difficulty his mother is having. I only wish that I had the maturity to understand at that point in time.

JD shared stories of his childhood with Oon Shu An, which helped her get in character

That shot, that moment was truly emotional to me.

Now, as a genre filmmaker, Viddsee had given me the opportunity to revisit my childhood, back to the time I saw my mother in a different light. My team even helped me secure locations where I spent my childhood, right in Yishun, the very apartment block I once lived in.

To mirror my past, I wanted the film to be made by women too. Most of the heads of departments are operated by women – Jasmine Tay, my producer; Sharon Loh, my director of photography; Asa Lee, my production designer. In fact, the camera unit is fully comprised of women.

The cast & crew of ‘Light By Bedside’
(back) Asa Lee, Irwan Ros, Eljin Tan, Mark Goh | (middle) Michelle Mak, Jolinna Ang, Kim Goh, Sharon Loh, Seh Poh Tin, Jasmine Tay | (front) Bruce Lim, Oon Shu An, JD Chua, Nathaniel Ng

Having grown up in a Singaporean Thai Chinese household, we were never expressive in our feelings. I never had the urge to tell my family that I love them or act in ways that characters in Hollywood movies would behave. In fact, if any one of us uttered “I love you”, we would probably respond with an awkward “hmm” and return to our nonchalance.

One may cheekily say, that this is back to how JD Begins, before how I truly became stuck in not growing up and love making action movies, like a kid playing with action figures. Perhaps that this is my chance (hopefully not my only chance) to tell a heartfelt story that help me say, “thank you, I love you”.

I can only wish that this short film can express how I feel and share this not only with my mother, but with all mothers, and mothers figures and mothers to be, here’s to all the lights sitting on our bedside that we look inward to grow our courage, to grow up, and to stand strong.

Happy Mother’s Day.

For all the joys and heartbreaks every mothers go through,
JD Chua

Watch ‘Light By Bedside’ by JD Chua (Singapore) on Viddsee:

‘Light By Bedside’ is a Viddsee Originals production, and part of the Scene City anthology of short films from Singapore.

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