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A Land Imagined

Singapore, France, Netherlands | 95 minutes | English, Mandarin | English subtitles | Format – DCP

  • Winner of Golden Leopard, Locarno Film Festival 2018

“[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


Set in industrial Singapore, police investigator Lok must find missing migrant worker Wang. Wang suffers a worksite accident and is anxious about repatriation. Unable to sleep, Wang starts frequenting a dreamy cybercafé in the dead of the night. Hoping to look for some form of human connection in this foreign land he feels alienated from, Wang forms a virtual friendship with a mysterious gamer that takes a sinister turn. When Wang suddenly disappears, Lok digs deep into the trail leading to a land reclamation site, in order to uncover the truth beneath all that sand.


Singapore has garnered itself a reputation as a modern economic miracle, turning itself from a fishing village to a thriving modern economy over the short period of only a few decades.

Such a feat is possible due to its ability to systematically engineer a land designed through land reclamation and endless construction projects. By perpetually reshaping itself, it negates natural geographical formations, rendering them into perfectly straight and angular shorelines – a land as though imagined up by some geometrical mind.

Even the people on this imaginary land are at the same time equally imagined. As a country of immigrants, its demography is wholly dependent on migration policies and economic considerations. New migrants are brought into the fold to reinvigorate the imagination of this economic miracle – a success story that is built upon the backs of low wage migrant labourers from the region who are hired to build a nation they can never become a part of.

The Cost of Imaginations – These indentured workers live in the outskirts of the restless city; existing in the blind spot of larger society; their exploitation remains unseen. They are the invisible and imaginary – they are the sleepless, the dreamless. With no recourse for grievances, the migrant workers live in precarity. The constant fear of repatriation, with debt incurred from training and agency fees even before they start to work and earn, continue to entrap them in their wretched situation. What should happen if they go missing? Who would look for them? Would anyone even care to know? The film is premised on these questions by an unwilling police investigator, looking for a missing worker whose migrant working-class reality is so far removed from his own that it seems a far cry to reconcile. Yet that is exactly what he must do to find the missing worker and solve the case.

Transformation through Social Imaginaries – In developing this film, I too found it difficult to write about a group of people whose lives are so inextricably interwoven with mine, but yet so different from my own. It took me three years to research this topic from both the political and the human level – the migrant workers I interviewed, the company that employs them, the NGOs and activists who represent them and the government who must ultimately protect them. But I found that approaching the topic from the outside was just not enough. I wanted to know their dreams and their fears, their joys and their jokes; I needed to know what keeps them up at night. So I spent my days with them over a long period of time and started to see them in a new light, not just as a function of society but every bit as human. I found myself transformed like the character of the police investigator in my film and hope to share this new light, through the projection of cinema, with my audience.


YEO Siew Hua studied philosophy at the National University of Singapore and is a member of the 13 Little Pictures film collective. He wrote and directed the experimental film, IN THE HOUSE OF STRAW (2009). He participated in the 2015 edition of Talents Tokyo and pitched at Autumn Meeting 2016, where he won the Grand Prix for his second fiction feature, A LAND IMAGINED (2018). The film also took part in the Asia Pacific Screen Lab 2017 and is a recipient of the Hubert Bals Fund and the Aide aux Cinema du Monde.


Lok – Peter YU

Wang – LIU Xiaoyi

Mindy – Luna KWOK

Jason – Jack TAN

Ajit – Ishtiaque ZICO

George – Kelvin HO

Foreman – Lee George LOW

Ming – Ming Andie CHEN


Director/Writer: Yeo Siew Hua
Producer:Fran Borgia
Co-Producers:Gary Goh, Jean-Laurent Csinidis, Denis Vaslin
Executive Producers: Melvin Ang, Ng Say Yong
Associate Producer: Dan Koh
Director of Photography: Hideho Urata
Production Designer: James Page
Costume Designer: Meredith Lee
Editor: Daniel Hui
Sound Designer: Damien Guillaume
Sound Mixer: Gilles Benardeau
Music Composer: Teo Wei Yong


Country of production: Singapore, France, The Netherlands
Production companies: Akanga Film Asia, mm2 Entertainment, Films de Force Majeure, Volya Films
In Association with: 13 Little Pictures
Supported by: Singapore Film Commission, L? Aide Aux Cinemas du Monde, Centre National du Cinema et de L? Image Animee, Ministere de L? Europe et des Affaires Etrangeres, Institut Francais, Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Netherlands Film Fund, Torino Film Lab Audience Design Award
With the support from Asia Pacific Screen Lab (Australia), Autumn Meeting (Vietnam), Talents Tokyo (Japan)
Running length: 95 minutes / Colour
Year of release: 2018
Language: English, Mandarin
Subtitles: English
Screening format: DCP
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Sound: 5.1, Stereo


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