Meditate on the polyvalent power of the story in forming posterity and social connection

Objectifs Film Club x Walter Benjamin Reading Group: Conversations on Sago Lane by Wong Chen-Hsi x ‘The Storyteller’ by Walter Benjamin

Thu, 20 Jun 2024 | 7.30pm to 9pm
Venue: Objectifs Workshop Space

Organised in collaboration with the NUS Malay Studies Department

Free admission, please RSVP here.

Please note that as this is a film x reading group, participants will be required to finish the reading beforehand in order to partake in the programme. You may access the reading at this link.

What does it mean to tell the story of our lives? Through the act of retelling and recounting, are we making and remaking myths about ourselves from the material of our circumstance? As we live in an age crowded with competing narratives, where do our stories live and go as we approach the inevitability of the end? Do they eventually die out like a gentle flame that completely consumes ‘the wick’ of one’s life, as Walter Benjamin states?

These are questions we will explore in the Objectifs Film Club on 20th June, where we will screen Wong Chen-Hsi’s short film Conversations on Sago Lane, followed by a group discussion of the film alongside Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay, ‘The Storyteller’. The screening and discussion are an invitation to meditate on the polyvalent power of the story in forming posterity and social connection.

The session will be led by Alicia Izharuddin, with filmmaker Wong Chen-Hsi in attendance.

Walter Benjamin was a German-Jewish writer and philosopher whose influential work on art, history, modernity, and capitalism has become a protean and prophetic lens for our collective past, present and future. Although he wrote mainly about the ruins and emerging cultures of Paris and Berlin, the essence of his arguments about how we write and experience the historical present, how we experience art, and how we must engage with the relentless onslaught of capitalism are relevant to us living at a time defined by both ruin and perpetual states of emergence.

Key themes that animate Walter Benjamin’s well-known writings can be appreciated in Southeast Asian filmmaking. The Objectifs Film Club x Walter Benjamin Reading Group is a space for re-reading Benjamin’s work through Southeast Asian films about cultural memory, collective pasts and futures, post-colonialism legacies, and affect in an age of information overload.

About Conversations on Sago Lane
On Sago Lane, a public housing estate was built in the 1960s upon a street of funeral parlours or “death houses”. Today, it is home to one of the highest concentrations of elderly ageing in place in Singapore.

About the facilitator
Alicia Izharuddin is currently a Senior Visiting Fellow in Gender and Sexuality at the National University of Singapore where she teaches courses on film and gender in Southeast Asia. She is committed to the public engagement of academia through organising reading groups in bookshops and women’s rights organisations. An interdisciplinary scholar in gender studies by training, she has taught at the University of Malaya, Harvard University, and held prestigious fellowships at the Harvard Divinity School and Leiden University.

About the filmmaker
Chen-Hsi Wong is an award-winning film writer-director who has worked in both the independent and commercial sectors of the film industry. Her films have screened at major international festivals and significant venues. Her first feature film Innocents (2012) won the Best Director – Asian New Talent at the Shanghai International Film Festival. She is currently in production for her second feature film, City of Small Blessings.

About the NUS Malay Studies Department
The NUS Malay Studies department aims to promote intellectual awareness to the concerns of the globalised Malay world through world-class teaching and research. It is home to the interdisciplinary synthesis of local, decolonial, and western approaches to Malay cultures of Southeast Asia and beyond. The department also maintains strong links with the local community in terms of policy studies, public intellectual engagement and social service.

About the Objectifs Film Library
The Objectifs Film Library is an initiative by Objectifs that aims to be a resource for film lovers in Singapore and the region. Currently, the collection is focused on short films from Southeast Asia.

Users will be able to rent some of these films to watch in the comfort of their homes, and a wider selection is available exclusively at our centre.

Access the Objectifs Film Library here.

The Objectifs Film Library is supported by