Through the Border
SINGAPORE / 2019 / Chinese (Mandarin, Hokkien) / Color / Digital File / 29 min
Director, Photography, Editing, Source: Teo Qi Yu
This film tells the story of the director’s grandfather, who immigrated to Singapore from China when he was a child. Although he eventually had a family and ran an electronics store in Singapore, he never forgot his home of Xi’an and the family he left there. Now, after being diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live, he faces the end of his life while still maintaining his daily rhythms, opening his store every morning. His granddaughter’s camera captures the love her taciturn grandfather holds for Xi’an by unbolting the doors of his memory leading to the “other home,” that had been slumbering until now, deep within the home he now inhabits.
[Director’s Statement] There’s a difference between a house and a home. This elusive sense of belonging is sought by people all over the world over. By having a home, it gives us this sense of rootedness.
There have been many waves of Chinese immigration from mainland China to South East Asia, also known as Nanyang, since the Ming Dynasty (1640s), creating what is known as the Chinese diaspora. The biggest diaspora into Nanyang occurred in the late 1930s. It was then that my grandfather, aged 12, immigrated to Singapore.
Despite having a place to live in Singapore, I always wondered if my grandfather felt belonging to this land. Before he passed away, he often had nightmares of his homeland being abandoned. It was then that I realised, despite spending more than half of his life building a family in Singapore, his home was not here, but back in his homeland, China.
My work explores the relationship between family and home through silent observations as well as intimate conversations. On a personal level, it is an attempt for me to better understand my home, the country I grew up in as well as my family. I believe in presenting moments honestly as they occur naturally, following the flow of time. As emotions are revealed, it transforms the audience into silent participants, allowing for self-reflection and finding their own connection.
A filmmaker whose passion spans diverse social issues. Her work contemplates everyday moments and interactions with the people around her. Her first exposure to filmmaking was at School of the Arts, Singapore followed by City University of Hong Kong, where she honed her craft in videography and documentaries. In her public screening debut, Teo presented her cinematography work in On Such and Such a Day, At Such and Such a Time (2013), directed by Natalie Khoo. The work was well received and was awarded Best Documentary and Cinematography Awards from the 5th Singapore Short Film Awards (2014). In 2017, she was one of thirteen participants selected to attend the 9th Golden Horse Academy in Taipei as a cinematographer, where she made meaningful connections with other regional filmmakers. Teo is currently based in Singapore where she continues to explore social issues in her work.