Screenshot from the film ‘I dream of Singapore’. Credit: Lei Yuan Bin
TWC2 General Manager Ethan Guo and migrant worker Feroz Md Mamun were at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival (“Berlinale”) 26 February to 1 March 2020 to take questions at the post-screening Q&As of the film ‘I dream of Singapore’. The documentary by Lei Yuan Bin (Executive producer: Glen Goei, Producer: Dan Koh) followed TWC2 client Feroz as he recovered from his work injury and eventually went home to Bangladesh. The film had five screenings in the Panorama section of the festival.
‘I dream of Singapore’ had earlier been shown at the Singapore International Film Festival; the trailer can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OSjjwLm1tI.
Cast and crew on the red carpet at the international premiere. Feroz and Ethan are second and third from the left respectively. Credit: Brigitte Dummer.
In Berlin, all five screenings were completely sold out. After each screening, questions from the mostly-German audience came thick and fast. “Many of the questions were about work injury,” recalls Ethan, “such as what could workers do after suffering an accident.”
Ethan explained to the audiences that in Singapore there is a process for disability compensation, but there remain pitfalls. “An employer may send the injured worker home early to reduce their liability for medical care, or they may not correctly declare the details of the incident to minimise their responsibility.”
“They may also fail to declare the worker’s salary properly.” The latter can result in an undercalculation of the compensation amount.
Putting things into better context, Ethan explained that injuries are an unfortunate outcome when, due to extremely low salaries, migrant workers find themselves working lots of overtime to earn a little bit more. However, overwork leads to fatigue and inattention, which then increases the chances of an accident.
L-R: Feroz, Ethan and filmmaker Lei Yuan Bin
The audience also asked about salaries. “They were shocked and speechless when I told them the average salaries of migrant workers in Singapore,” reports Ethan.
Other questions from the audience included ones about how TWC2 is funded and the work we do with domestic workers.
To help with questions put to Feroz, the film festival organisers were very kind to provide an interpreter — we were impressed. Feroz was asked what has since become of his dream of Singapore and what he is doing now. He said that he has bought four cows and is raising them for market. He named the four cows after his befrienders at TWC2 and the filmmakers.
L-R: Singapore ambassador to Germany Lawrence Bay, Lei Yuan Bin, Ethan, and producer Dan Koh. Credit: Singapore embassy in Berlin.
Lei Yuan Bin and Dan Koh, the filmmakers, had questions put to them too. One which Ethan can recall was whether there was any retaliation from the State for making a film that shows a less-than-flattering side of Singapore. Lei answered, as far as Ethan can recall, that the film was in the Singapore Film Festival and even now is regularly screened at a cinema here.
We believe the screening of ‘I dream of Singapore’ at the Berlinale and our participation at the Q&As boosted awareness of the situation of migrant workers in Singapore and the work that TWC2 does.
Ethan’s and Feroz’s trip to Berlin was generously funded by a donor who is also a film-lover.