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  • The Obs: A Singapore Story

    Singapore | 98 minutes | English, Indonesian | English subtitles | Format – DCP

    • Official Selection, 25th Singapore International Film Festival 2014
    • Official Selection, 14th Cinedays Festival of European Film (Macedonia) 2015
    • Official Selection, 10th Festival of Music Documentaries DORF (Croatia) 2016


    “[A] tale of an alternative Singapore, expressed through the eyes, words and instruments of these incendiary—and at times inscrutable—musicians. It’s a parable of the city, one in which the fury of the common folk bubbles without boiling over.” —Time Out Singapore

    “Must-watch…The story of Singapore’s hardest working and longest-surviving indie band, The Observatory, is told through archival footage and interviews in this contemplative documentary by filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua on what it means to think like an outsider in a society that favours the mainstream.” —The Business Times

    “[An] insightful peak into the band’s development over the years, how it weathered changes in creative direction, to evolve and to produce arguably the local scene’s most inventive music. Not just for the fans, it’s a story about the Singapore experience. Through archival footage and interviews, this is the closest one can get to The Observatory.” —Bandwagon


    Hailed as Singapore’s most important independent band, The Observatory and their brooding, brilliant and confounding music are explored in this quietly contemplative music documentary. Tracing the footsteps of the group’s core members, THE OBS: A SINGAPORE STORY looks back at the country’s early nation-building period, when native music faced a clampdown by the government, which accused it of ‘western decadence’, to understand the creative process of one of Singapore’s longest-surviving outfits. From Bali to Bergen, THE OBS highlights the constant struggle between artistic vision and pragmatic realities; an unwavering commitment to evolution versus a society that unforgivingly favours the mainstream. More than a music film, THE OBS is a tale of uncompromising passion, of culture and of belonging, and the costs—and invaluable rewards—of being creative.

    Director’s Statement

    In 2011, I was approached to make a short video on Singapore music legend, Leslie Low, the vocalist and guitarist for The Observatory. I was surprised by how popular the video became, especially when the general impression is that there is a lack of quality local musicians and people are not interested in home-grown music. But if we only probe a little deeper, we would discover that Singapore music has thrived—in fits and spurts—since the 1960s and that in recent years, there has been an explosion of young bands. Movements in the arts and music aren’t formed out of pure momentum, however, they have to be documented. For instance, the second golden era of local music in the early 1990s fizzled out with the physical death of the influential BigO zine. In late 2011, I was sitting at my desk clearing up space on my hard drive and moved the Leslie footage into the trash. I remember a moment of hesitation before I emptied the trash and the familiar sound of paper crushing was heard. It is at times like this, when something is finally lost, that one suddenly feels the emptiness. I realised it wasn’t only some piece of my own memory that got emptied out, but a bigger piece of collective heritage that had just disappeared. At this, I phoned my producers and said, “We need to do a documentary on The Observatory.”

    Director’s Biography

    Yeo Siew Hua is a winner of the Kodak Singapore Prize for Cinematography and the Cathay Organisation Gold Medal. IN THE HOUSE OF STRAW, which he wrote and directed, is his debut feature film that premiered in competition at the Bangkok International Film Festival 2009 and was presented at the 34th Sao Paulo International Film Festival 2010, where it was lauded by critics as a significant film of the Singapore New Wave.


    Leslie Low Vivian Wang Dharma Victor Low Evan Tan X’Ho Bani Haykal Mark Dolmont Debbie Ding David Toop


    Director/Writer/Editor: Yeo Siew Hua
    Producers:Adeline Setiawan, Dan Koh, Yeo Siew Hua
    Music: The Observatory
    Audio Post: Justin Seah
    Camera: Aaron Ng, Adeline Setiawan, Andrew Sobrielo, Anisah Aidid, Cain Chui, Dan Koh, Elizabeth Lim, Eric Lee, Looi Wan Ping, Nigel Hogan, Patrick Ong, Samantha Sng, Tian Low, Wu Jun Han, Yang Vicki, Yeo Siew Hua
    Sound: Hussin Ismail, Jenn Hui, Yong Rong Zhao, Patrick Chan, See Tong Wai
    Photography: Philipp Aldrup Photography, Koh Nguang How, David Ee, Hoong Wei Long
    Associate Producers: JD Chua, Tian Low
    Consultants: Leon Cheo, Patrick Ong

    Technical Specifications

    Country of production: Singapore
    Production company: 13 Little Pictures
    Running length: 98 minutes / Colour
    Year of release: 2015
    Language: English & Indonesian
    Subtitles: English
    Screening format: DCP
    Aspect ratio: 16:9
    Sound: Stereo


    Dan Koh | Producer

    Film website    Trailer




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