SINGAPORE, SERBIA, MONTENEGRO / 2010 / Cantonese, Mandarin, Serbian /Color, B&W / Blu-ray (HD) / 93 min
Director, Script, Photography, Editing, Sound Design, Producer, Source: Vladimir Todorovic
Letters in Cantonese and Mandarin are exchanged between a Chinese sailor traveling in the Balkans and “She,” who requests him to return home. Between the lines, the sailor, who loses his resolve looking at beautiful scenery in a strange land, and “She,” in various changing forms, are intimately exchanging glances. With a folk tale from a village he visits serving as his oar, the sailor freely navigates foreign waters. Dreamlike reality and dreams overflowing with reality drift on waves between Singapore and the Balkans, but where will they land?
[Director’s Statement] he movie was born during my recent travels to various remote places in Serbia and Montenegro. Among the places visited was the lake of Skadar, the location of the famous Serbian folk poem “The Founding of Skadar,” which Jacob Grimm referred to as one of the most outstanding songs of all peoples and all times. During the same trip, in a bookstore in Belgrade, I came across Mishima Yukio’s The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. Both these literary masterpieces were to become the leitmotifs of the movie.
Upon hearing numerous folk stories from the region and comparing them to the everyday life of an expatriate in Singapore, I decided to make a movie capturing these polarities. Thus, one half of the movie focuses on the reality of common people living in the economically devastated Balkans, while the other half depicts the quasi-bourgeois life of a foreigner in Singapore. In the movie, the main character speaks Cantonese, a Chinese dialect not officially recognized in China and Singapore. In contrast, his love interest speaks back to him in the standard Mandarin, with a Singaporean accent. Only in the moments when she begs him to return does she try speaking to him in his mother tongue, Cantonese. She plays the roles of wife, girlfriend, mother, or homeland, always calling and waiting for her sailors to return.
In Chinese, “Water Hands” stands for a sailor.
Vladimir Todorovic is a filmmaker, new media artist, and educator. His recent generative movie, Silica-esc, has been awarded a Special Mention for the category Computer Art in the international competition of the Visions from the Future 2010-Iridescent Worlds and was a jury-recommended work of Japan’s Media Art Festival. His debut feature, Water Hands, premiered as part of the Bright Future section of the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2011.
His films and projects have been shown in numerous international venues, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Ars Electronica, MuseumsQuartier Vienna, and Museum of Contemporary Arts Belgrade. He lives and works in Singapore.