The fury and passion of the woke generation have not gone unnoticed. Offline and online, marketeers respect and fear them; brands get ‘cancelled‘ overnight.
Go woke or broke?
Is this label necessarily a bad thing? Is the capacity of empathy a sign of our socially-connected times? Is this tuned-up morality and general distrust of the world a new social status? How far should political-correctness go?
Ahead of the Juree SG 2019 weekend, we try to understand how creators and curators and responding to the woke generation, how that their work and voice is relevant in this age of consciousness.
Singaporean and Regional Creators and Curators, from left Sanif Olek, Kattie Fan, Juan Foo, Ler Jiyuan on storytelling for the woke generation
Understanding the woke generation as an audience
Does “true art” always finds its own audience? Creator, producer and educator JUAN FOO beg to differ. As a practitioner and a veteran in the industry, Juan believes that content creators should know the audience they’re creating for.
In his view, being socially conscious should not justify a label. He approaches “woke” as being mindful, and in a continuous journey of consciousness, and of course — action.
It is not a state of mind, but I think an ongoing attitude — Juan Foo
“It is not a state of mind, but I think an ongoing attitude. Turning ‘work-ness’ into action is a wholly different thing altogether. That’s the challenge. Being ‘woke’ is like a preliminary stage.
“Content creators should know the audience to reach out to them and give them something more than they expect.”
MODERATOR: Producer, mentor and educator Juan Foo, now producing Singapore’s first creature genre film Circle Line
Finding and amplifying a voice amidst the noise
The media plays a part in amplifying voices and nurturing audiences, says Juan.
“It is a challenge to truly claim adages like ‘true art will find its audience’ and the like. Audience definitions are wide. I think you need time and taste to be woke. Media is literally attacking our senses nowadays. Audiences need to be in a state of appreciation, and that probably is the role of media platforms. ”
There’s a lot of noise, and how does a creator get heard? Storytelling does not change for Juan, but rather, it changes how he begins telling a story to show a different, deeper and richer perspective.
“Key ideas here is to be able to open to listen, appreciate, understand, and well, enjoy the experience as a media consumer. It takes time and effort to do so in the creator’s craft. ”
Representation doesn’t have to be controversial
Authentic voices matter, but so is the tongue
Filmmaker LER JIYUAN holds dialects close to his heart. As a creator, Ler takes on the responsibility of not just producing, but also consciously thinking about how his craft and reach has an impact on society. It’s the nuances of the delivery that matters to him, and in keeping his Ah Ma’s spirit and tongue alive.
While he makes stories in English and other languages, he consciously tries to infuse dialect in his work as much as he can.
SPEAKER: Writer and director Ler Jiyuan, also Gold winner of Juree SG 2018 and now show-running a HBO series
This started when working on local TV productions, where he had to comply with strict restrictions on language. He felt boxed in and wondered to himself, do Singaporeans really have such stilted and unnatural dialogues in their everyday life?
I felt repressed over time. I was like “why must we talk like that”?! – Ler Jiyuan
“I needed to express myself in other ways, such as through my shorts, where I could let my characters talk in whatever languages I liked. So that was what I did.
“The death of a language is also the death of an epoch, its culture, people and memories. Dialects are fast dying in Singapore. We are probably the last generation that understands/speaks them.
“I try to shoot some of my stuff in Hokkien – the language of my Ah Ma. I guess it’s my little way of contributing.”
Storytelling and representation doesn’t have to be insular
SANIF OLEK ventured into filmmaking to address the lack of Singaporean stories told from a Singapore-Malay perspective and makes a point to emphasise that this ‘Malay’ perspective is uniquely Singaporean. His first short film, Lost Sole (2005), was made to address to address this zero representation.
SPEAKER: Award-winning TV and commercial director Sanif Olek, also director of Sayang Disayangi, an Oscars Best Foreign Film entry for Singapore
He has the advantage of having two decades in the industry, and can continue pushing boundaries in his work.
Having direct access to the culture and community was a privilege to address misrepresentations of his community, and Sanif has made it part of his craft to showcase this seldom-addressed stories in mainstream narratives.
It’s important that my narratives are accessible to as wide audience as possible. – Sanif Olek
“It’s important that my narratives are accessible to as wide audience as possible. While the narratives are mainly told from the Singapore-Malay point of view, these narratives are not insular. Audiences from Africa, the American Midwest and inner China can still relate to my stories.”
SPEAKER: Curator and festival director Kattie Fan from ifva in Hong Kong will also be joining the session as a speaker
Saturday, 19 Oct 2019 | 4:30PM – 6PM
Topic: STORYTELLING TO THE WOKE
Speakers: Ler Jiyuan, Kattie Fan, Sanif Olek
Moderator: Juan Foo
How do we tell stories in this woke era? This forum brings film industry professionals and filmmakers together in navigating storytelling given fresh awareness in audience viewing behaviour and ever-changing landscape of distribution.