As the world slows down, retreat to your comfortable recliner or bed at home and immerse yourself in a good book or film. Although travel is not possible now, you can still soak in the rich history of our sunny island, get acquainted with local hawker dishes, and marvel at the sights and sounds of the city–all through books and films produced about Singapore, in Singapore.
Books and films form an escapism for travellers who may not be able to get onto a plane now, as they drift away into an alternate world filled with colorful characters and intriguing plots steeped between realism and one’s imagination.
From documentaries to drama, fiction and non-fiction, the selection of books and films are meant to give you a glimpse of Singapore and understand the narrative, history and cultural nuances of our society.
Kick off your shoes, relax and get ready to travel Singapore through pages and pixels of our selected books and films.
Singapore: A Biography
Chockfull of anecdotes and stories, Singapore: A Biography by Mark Frost and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow shows you the city through the personal experiences of workers, adventurers, rulers and revolutionaries who have shaped its history over the last seven centuries.
The authors, drawing on research in collaboration with the National Museum of Singapore, have woven together ancient chronicles, eyewitness accounts, oral histories and radio broadcasts to create a vivid and compelling narrative that brings the past back to life.
At almost 500 pages, this massive tome will keep you occupied for some time, and you should be able to travel and see Singapore for yourself by the time you finish reading it.
Singapore: A Biography is available on Books Actually.
If you enjoy surrealism and fantasy, you might dig Lion City by acclaimed playwright and poet Ng Yi-Sheng. Winner of the 2019 Singapore Book Awards for Best Literary Work, Lion City is a collection of short fiction infused with myth, magical realism and contemporary sci-fi.
Think tales of animals becoming robots at the zoo and a prince falling in love with a crocodile– these are just some of the exquisitely strange tales set in familiar Singapore.
The ieatishootipost Guide to Singapore’s Shiokest Hawker Food
Join local food blogger Dr Leslie Tay in search of good hawker food, where hawker food is revered by many, and treated as a culinary institution for some. Touted as the insider’s guide to the best hawker food in Singapore, the book highlights the comprehensive knowledge of hawker food by the author.
Filled with stunning food photographs and vivid descriptions of dishes, the book captures more than half a decade’s worth of eating, shooting and posting. Michael Raffael, a food and travel writer from the United Kingdom, calls this book is “what every traveller longs for: a reliable source”.
The ieatishootipost Guide to Singapore’s Shiokest Hawker Food is available on Epigram.
From books to films, we segue into the visual-aural landscape of Singapore with Singapore GaGa, the first Singapore documentary to have a cinematic release, which was sold out during its seven-week run in 2005.
Although it’s only 55 minutes long, the documentary by Tan Pin Pin draws viewers into the immersive stories that are intricately woven and satisfyingly well-paced. Look out for a captivating scene with Margaret Leng Tan, the pianist who famously performed on a toy piano in Carnegie Hall revisiting her performance at a neighbourhood void deck.
The critically-acclaimed documentary reveals Singapore’s past and present through astute observations of every day Singaporeans from all walks of life including buskers, street vendors and even a ventriloquist. Spend a quiet afternoon at home watching the film and getting to know another side of our city.
Singapore GaGa is available online on VOD (video-on-demand).
Crazy Rich Asians
Moving on to present day, find yourself surrounded by a wealth of zany characters in Crazy Rich Asians. A contemporary romantic comedy set in Singapore, Crazy Rich Asians is based on the bestselling novel by Singapore-born author Kevin Kwan.
With an all-star cast, the movie takes an engaging and hilarious look at what can happen when young love collides with old money. The movie is the perfect setup for your next visit to Singapore, as you bask in the sights and sounds of the global metropolis.
From dining at Newton hawker centre to a wedding dinner reception held in Gardens by the Bay, make sure you take notes on the places to see and things to do in Singapore, or you can refer to this editorial too.
Crazy Rich Asians is available for rent or purchase on Google Play.
Be moved by inspiring stories of humanity in 15 Shorts, a collection of short films by 15 directors such as Eric Khoo of Mee Pok Man and 12 Storeys fame, and Kirsten Tan, who recently won the Special Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival for her feature film debut Pop Aye.
These 15 directors tell the true stories of Singaporeans who performed selfless acts between the 1970s and 1990s. Look out for The Buddy by budding filmmaker Jason Lee, a film that centres on a friendship between two classmates.
Another notable film is T(h)ree Lives by critically-acclaimed filmmaker K. Rajagopal, which is based on the true story of Rosie Wong, a visually-handicapped woman whose life is significantly changed by a kind stranger.
The short films is in support of SG Cares, a national movement to support efforts of ground-up volunteerism in Singapore.
15 Shorts is available on Viddsee.
It is 1930s Singapore and a young boy finds a violin at the Singapore River. From then on, the violin changes hands between different owners against the backdrop of a country evolving from a fishing village to a modern metropolis today.
The Violin is part history lesson and part storytelling through a music instrument, and brought to screen in vivid animation by director Ervin Han, who is also the co-founder of Robot Playground Media, an award-winning animation studio based in Singapore.
Although the film is without dialogue, the music–from the violin of course–carries the plot and culminates in a stirring concert by the Singapore River. Viewers will get acquainted with 80 years of Singapore’s history told in this 16-minute short film.
The Violin is available on Viddsee.