Sandwiched is a short film that I made with my family and friends when I undertook FLM362 Smartphone Filmmaking for Meaningful Storytelling. I signed up for the module because I was attracted to the practical aspect of creating a short film. I’d never made one before, so I thought it was a good opportunity to apply what I’ve appreciated from other films and express myself creatively using a smartphone.

Initially, I wanted to film a comedy about a blind date to lighten people’s mood during the pandemic. But due to the ever-changing COVID restrictions, wet weather considerations, and the difficulty in getting actors for my first script, I had to change my story and work with the resources that I have.

My mother suggested making something partially based on our experiences as caregivers from  the sandwich generation. With that image of the sandwich in mind, I tried to express the metaphorical idea of being caught between opposing demands, with the weight of responsibility and the sense of not getting anywhere. Characters are often framed in doorways or between walls that hem them in.  To visually show how characters are similar even though they are of a different gender and age, I made use of match cuts, and certain shots are mirror images of each other.

For the music, I chose “Singapura Waktu Malam” (Singapore by Night) sung by the iconic Saloma.  I needed something that could evoke nostalgia for the grandmother’s largely forgotten time—the golden age of Singapore cinema, and a place to fulfil one’s dreams.  The song could also capture the family members in the present time, who want to escape from the confines of their lives, their home, and by extension, Singapore.  Originally, the film had scenes of the mother looking at a holiday photo of herself in Paris and the grandmother looking at a photo of the Kaaba in Mecca, but I had to ruefully cut these scenes to meet the given 5-minute limit.  Ultimately, Sandwiched is a deeply personal short film about caregivers, their longings and dreams, and their struggle to cope with the burden of seemingly endless responsibilities.

Through this course, I’ve learnt that filmmaking is not as easy as it seems. Even for this short, I had to pay very close attention to the surroundings and make sure there were no incongruous object or even sounds that don’t belong.  Finally, I also realised that—as the song says—Singapore is never short of stories.