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Joy Song: A Singapore Filmmaker Serving Up Haunting Images And Narratives

The Joy Song aesthetic is at once lush, otherworldly and profoundly beautiful – here, the Singapore-born Berlin-based filmmaker talks influences, storytelling and her debut feature film, Ocular.
joy song

Joy Song, the 27-year-old writer, photographer and filmmaker who debuts her feature film Ocular next year.

“Perhaps at the end of the day, what drives me as a filmmaker is that reality is not enough. This is why my job is to create new worlds,” muses Joy Song. To that end, the worlds this Singapore-born, Berlin-based writer, photographer and filmmaker creates are pretty sublime. The Joy Song aesthetic tends towards filmic, nebulous dreamscapes, soaked in a colour palette that feels almost melancholic.

In her hands, ordinary things such as flowers or a wintry schoolyard take on an otherworldly undertone that suggests a back story just beyond the frame. “I enjoy exploring darker and more abstract themes, like the uncanny, or stories that have a challenging psychological or philosophical element to them. And with that comes a highly stylised way of storytelling, because I have to create a visual language that complements and communicates the enigmatic nature and challenges associated with those concepts,” says Song, who cites auteurs such as Andrei Tarkovsky, Chris Marker, Maya Deren and Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) as her key influences.

The 27-year-old got her feet wet through working in Hollywood – she was part of the writing and marketing teams for prestige vehicles such as Spotlight and Arrival, before relocating to Berlin this year to hone her art. Discerning international creatives are catching on to her talent, though this is her first feature with a Singapore publication. She directed local art pop chanteuse Yeule’s viral music video Pretty Bones, which has garnered more than 470K views on YouTube since it premiered in July. Her short films have made official selection at various international film festivals. Buzzy young labels Bode (this year’s CFDA Emerging Designer of the Year) and Paloma Wool have jointly tapped on Song to direct a fashion commercial, which will incorporate themes of time and memory.

Get ready for more of her works to hit the (big) screen – Song is set to debut her first feature film, titled Ocular, early next year. Shot in more than 30 locations throughout Japan, Ocular is a stream-of-consciousness travelogue of a girl’s journey through the country. Blockbuster fare this is not, going by its trailers on Song’s website, but she’s never been one for the easy route.

“The film itself is based on the concept of the unreliable narrator – a term in film philosophy [referring to an untrustworthy character] that has always fascinated me. As a filmmaker, I’m very much drawn to the idea of perception, but more so, to challenge it.”

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Vignettes from Ocular
Vignettes from Ocular
Vignettes from Ocular
A scene from short film, Quietus
Song’s music video for electronic musician Yuele’s single, Pretty Bones
Song’s music video for electronic musician Yuele’s single, Pretty Bones