The following paragraph is quoted from

Owing to the Government’s policy of promoting Mandarin Chinese, for many years local television was not allowed to show programmes in other dialects of Chinese. The Cantonese used by popular TV serials from Hong Kong had to be dubbed into Mandarin, while local television series or programmes may not use dialects. Similarly, local newspapers were not allowed to carry listings for Malaysia’s TV3, which showed programmes in Cantonese. However, Hong Kong’s TVB, broadcasting in Cantonese, is now available on cable.

It all seems contradictory to me.

On one hand, our government is attempting to spearhead the “Hua Yu Cool!” campaign which encourages our fellow Chinese comrades to speak proper ‘Mandarin Chinese’ (Well, since we’re supposed to speak like them, we ought to use terms like ‘comrades’). Why? I suppose it’s to transcend whatever language communication barriers which may be omnipresent between the different dialect groups in Singapore, should everybody go on talking in their Teochew or Hokkien or Cantonese. After all, Singapore is multi-racial, and within each and every race, Singapore is also multi-dialectal.

However, on the other hand, our leaders themselves, being the people who championed the campaign (and all the other campaigns which campaign-loving Singapore has; we seem like such a wonderfully-motivated group of people who really needs campaigns, just to ensure that we’re on the same page as the government, and to nudge us into the same direction if we’re not), are also the ones who are finding it a real pity that our culture and heritage are gradually being lost as times go by. We call that globalisation and losing touch with our past. AND (trying to) speak Good Mandarin Chinese and English. So, on the latter note, it does not really come as a surprise that censorship laws regarding the usage of dialects in the media today has gradually become more laxed. And that is why it really came as a pleasant surprise to me as I read in the papers yesterday, an article a columnist wrote on the above issue as two CNY films (namely, “Kungfu Dunk” and “Ah Long Pte Ltd”) had featured dialect dialogues in the movies, while he tried to kick up a brouhaha that “CJ7” was fully dubbed.Of course, the standpoint to take is that censorship laws have not been laxed to such an extent that a movie can be shown in entirety in its original dialect language without flouting the rules. Naturally “CJ7” has to be dubbed. Also, it makes entirely no sense to dub a few lines of the movie Chinese and to leave the rest of the movie undubbed in Cantonese. That’d probably affect the enjoyment of the movie in viewers. So, two choices – show the film entirely in Chinese (more profitable locally as well as it does not alienate any Chinese dialect groups) or show the film entirely in Cantonese (which is kind of impossible).Over the past few years, dialect has already been appearing in the media over various instances such as the movies or songs or even charity programmes. Remember “881”, Roystan Tan’s phenomenal box office hit regarding Chinese Opera in Singapore which is predominantly in dialect? How about Wang Lee-Hom and Selina’s duet “You’re The Song In My Heart”, or Ocean Au’s “How’re You Lately, My Friend”, both of which feature Hokkien lines?

So, what’s so surprising about the usage of dialect coincidentally, in an astonishing total of two movies released together that warrants a column?

CNY Movies: Round #1

February 13, 2008

It is interesting how Stephen Chow’s CJ7 and Jack Neo’s Ah Long Pte Ltd emerged the frontrunners of the three Chinese New Year movies given the extent to which these movies were sidelined (especially by Golden Village) in favour of Jay Chou’s (oops, or rather, Kevin Chu’s) Kungfu Dunk.

As reported in the 12 Feb 08 edition of mypaper, Stephen Chow is the undisputed box office champion over the Chinese New Year period in Singapore, making S$2 million. This also broke the record set by Chow’s previous film Kungfu Hustle, which, at S$1.89 million, was the biggest opening weekend for all Chinese films released in Singapore’s history. Jack Neo’s Ah Long Pte Ltd garnered $1.47 million, while Jay Chou’s Kungfu Dunk earned a rather measly $1.4 million (in comparison to the other two movies). Given the similar amounts of advertising of all 3 movies, and the strong popularity of the leads in all the three movies, I admit that Jay Chou’s meagre box office takings do come as a surprise.

Now, just consider this. If local movie distributors had actually allocated even more movie timeslots and larger cinema halls for the screening of CJ7 and Ah Long Pte Ltd, which incidentally played to a lot of sell-out shows, the figures you see will not be just S$2 million and S$1.4 million, but much higher than that (Who knows, CJ7 could have even hit the $3 million-mark!!)

Within the same article, Mr Jack Neo made a preposterous, nonsensical and baffling statement which does not have a reasoning behind.

Quoting the relevant paragraphs from the article:
The strong opening was a morale boost for Neo, whose movie was largely panned by critics. “When I make a film, I insist on quality. My movies are not rubbish. I made them with a conscience.”
He added with a laugh: “I think my detractors are very disappointed”.

Now it is understandable that Mr Neo is driven with all the ecstasy in the world given the positive box office takings his movie has taken in over the opening weekend (He even managed to beat Jay Chou!)

However, on the same note, the following equation which he is trying to imply oh-so-boastfully-yet-delusionally is irksome: Good box office takings = High Quality movies

Since when did such an equation ever exist? High quality movies is merely a subset of movies with good box office takings. Movies with good box office showings does NOT have to be of high quality and critically-acclaimed, they just need to have the right audience appeal.

Mr Neo seems to be implying that his movie is better than those Academy Award-nominated ones such as “Juno”, “La Vie En Rose”, “The Diving Bell and Butterfly”, “Away From Her”, “Atonement” for example, which evidently are unable to match “Ah Long Pte Ltd” in terms of box office showings, due to a lack of mass appeal for the local audiences.

Equating the above theory to the Chinese music scene, it appears that indie musicians such as sodagreen and Cheer Chen, who do not sell as well as boybands like Fahrenheit and Lollipop (Yeah, I know, the names of Chinese boybands are getting from bad to worse. And you thought 5566 was corny enough?), had better start finding a change of day jobs. They do not sell as well as those boybands, so, given the theory which Mr Neo swears by, what’s with their indie credentials? Fahrenheit and Lollipop are the better singers with the better songs what!

All this, is just delusional crap and self-indulgence. Doh.