Passing on a legacy of generous giving
A teaser of Plague, the short film by director Boo Junfeng, as part of 15 Shorts, an initiative to inspire giving.
At the height of the international Aids scare in the 1980s, fear and panic spread casually.
An unusually high number of young adults, especially men, were dying from rare forms of pneumonia, cancer and other illnesses, and the medical world had, initially, scant knowledge of the cause.
Dauntless healthcare workers, however, chose to fight the climate of terror and tragedy by caring for Aids patients and educating people about what they knew of the illness – that it does not spread through casual contact.
Among the pioneer advocates in Singapore was healthcare worker Iris Verghese, who, with empathy and compassion, tirelessly counselled Aids patients. Her courage to stand up against Aids discrimination is the inspiration for Plague, a short film by director Boo Junfeng.
The film is part of 15 Shorts, a collaboration between the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre and local film company Blue3Asia. The initiative seeks to highlight through short films by 15 homegrown directors, the Singapore spirit of courage, kindness and giving, and to inspire others to build a more caring and inclusive society.
The first phase of the project launched in February, with five films by film-makers such as Sean Ng and Randy Ang released on the 15 Shorts microsite. The second batch of five films, including works by homegrown directors K Rajagopal and Chai Yee Wei, kicked off its online release on 1 Dec with Plague, coinciding with World Aids Day.
Boo says it was “impossible to say no” to the project when Blue3Asia director Daniel Yun approached him to make the film, even though he was busy juggling his role as creative director of the 2018 National Day Parade, and his next feature film.
He says: “The spirit that Iris embodies, especially in the early years of the HIV outbreak, is very inspiring.
“In that climate of fear and uncertainty, there was a lot of irrational behaviour and discrimination towards Aids patients. But Iris saw people who needed care and concern, and she stepped forward and embraced them, to the shock of those around her.”
The film depicts a visit by a healthcare worker named Iris, to an Aids patient’s home in 1985. It is not based on an actual incident, although it was inspired by Mrs Verghese’s experiences, says Boo, and it remains “truthful to the reality of who she is, and the prejudice and stigma towards Aids then.”
Each 15 Shorts film is dedicated to a charity in Singapore and Plague is made in support of Action for Aids. The non-governmental organisation, formed in 1988, is committed to fighting Aids and HIV infection in Singapore through educational, testing, treatment and welfare programmes.
Boo says: “When I showed Iris the film, she said she liked it very much, but it wasn’t about whether the actress looked like her, or not. She hopes the film’s message of love and kindness will spread, so that the discrimination towards Aids patients, which continues to exist today, will end.”
Watch Plague and other 15 Shorts films and learn how you can give to the causes they champion, here.