A Priceless win

Winning entries: Priceless (left) by Kenny Tan is the story of a boy called to the principal’s office for getting into a fight over an eraser. Going Away (above) by Tariq Mansor is about a teenager who decides to leave home only to enlist for military service.

SINGAPORE - The image of an eraser stamped with the Singapore flag spoke volumes about national identity to visual director Kenny Tan, 30. So much so that he made a film about it.

His submission to the biennial short film festival ciNE65, Priceless, emerged as the Overall Best Film at the awards ceremony held at Golden Village Grand at Great World City on Tuesday night.

Launched in July 2011 by Nexus, a national education resource hub and unit of the Ministry of Defence, ciNE65 is a platform for budding filmmakers to interpret Singapore through their lenses.

In its second year, the competition was based on the theme, "I'll be there for you, Singapore".

Set in the days of Tan's own childhood in the 1980s, Priceless, which took just half a day to shoot, is the story of a boy called to the principal's office for getting into a fight over an unnamed possession.

He finally reveals the object he had been so jealously guarding: an eraser emblazoned with the flag of Singapore - the only one in an entire box he owns.

Tan was inspired by how Singaporeans may all be different but share common memories.

"When we used to play these eraser games, the one with the Singapore flag was the most rare and expensive and it was something that we would fight over," he said, referring to the classroom game of flipping erasers in which the player whose eraser lands on top of his opponent's pockets both.

He hopes that his film can address cynicism about national identity which might appear as something manufactured in official discourse.

The eraser conveys the message that "you would want to defend what is yours", even in the early days of childhood innocence when one is hardly aware of such constructed identities.

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