Second Saturdays Reading Series – March 2015

Words by Jee Leong Koh, and images by Paul Rozario-Falcone, with film stills from Kirsten Tan

As promised, Second Saturdays expanded its feature offerings beyond literature to include the other arts. The March edition of the monthly series, hosted by Melissa Wansin Wong and Alphonse Hrdel in their beautiful Williamsburg apartment, featured a private screening of Kirsten Tan’s award-winning short film Dahdi.

The heart-breaking film dramatized an encounter between an elderly widow and a young Burmese refugee. Kirsten Tan made the film in response to an actual event in 2012, when 40 Burmese Rohingya asylum-seekers were turned away by Singapore authorities, and forced to return in their boat to the open seas. The film was shot on Pulau Ubin, an island to the northeast of Singapore, where the action takes place.

dahdi

Kirsten Tan was on hand after the screening to answer the eager questions of the audience. She was disarmingly frank about the challenges of working with amateur actors, so necessary to the film’s feeling of authenticity. Against her producers’ wishes, she also insisted on having the parrot in order to show the widow’s loneliness and capacity for love. The audience that night heartily agreed with Tan’s decision: the parrot was essential. In fact, the beautifully-shot film showcased Tan’s strong natural instincts for film-making. Dahdi was awarded Best Southeast Asian Short at last year’s Singapore International Film Festival. You can read an interview with Kisten Tan at Singapore Poetry about her approach to making films.

Kirsten

Before the feature, attendees enjoyed conversing around the potluck. There was plenty to eat and drink, as is usual at Second Saturdays events, thanks to everyone’s generosity. There was a short open reading. Christine Chia read from a work-in-progress, Who Stole Spring. The children’s story, written in rhyming verse, revolves around a young child who rants against Winter, calling it the “ugly stepsister of the seasons,” and then hears back from Winter. Wun Kuen Ng treated us to another one of her poems, this one titled provocatively “The Tempt.” The last reader was Jeremy Tiang, who read three of his translations of poems by prominent Chinese-language Singaporean writers.

The Second Saturdays Reading Series welcomes everyone. If you would like to attend, please get in touch with Jee (jeeleong.koh@gmail.com) or Paul (paul.rozario@gmail.com). April’s event features scientist-turned-ceramist Hong-Ling Wee. There will be an open reading again.

Christine Chia

Christine Chia reading

Wun

Wun-Kuen Ng reading

Jeremy

Jeremy Tiang making us laugh

About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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