A Land Imagined is a film about Wang, a construction worker from China who went missing while working in Singapore. Lok – a detective tasked to solve the mystery – learnt that Wang became friends with Ajit, a construction worker from Bangladesh. Wang also grew close to Mindy, a woman working at an Internet cafe that Wang and many other migrant workers like him regularly frequent.
A Land Imagined is a beautifully shot film. It allows us a peek into the lives of migrant workers in Singapore that Singaporeans don’t usually get to see – the spaces they work in, the homes they live in (not really homes, but dormitory rooms packed with double-decker beds).
Though the film could use more details in the plot, Mindy’s character made the film a little bit more electrifying. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the conversation that Mindy and Wang had at night while lying on a reclaimed beach. Singapore is known for being a tiny country, but it used to be much smaller. In the past 200 years, Singapore’s land area has increased by 25% because of land reclamation, a process that creates new land from the sea.
During their conversation, Wang mentioned that the beach they are lying on was created from sand imported from Malaysia, and that other parts of reclaimed land in Singapore were created from Indonesia’s and Vietnam’s sand. Identity is a constant theme in this film, and in this scene, it seemed difficult to draw the line between Singapore and other countries.
Singapore is made up of people from many different nationalities. In fact, 40% of Singapore’s population are immigrants. Many aspects of Singapore are created from non-Singaporean objects, from its reclaimed land to its foreign people.
Singapore, then, does not appear to be its own country but is, instead, an imagined land. And while this has helped Singapore gain economic progress, it is done at the expense of the migrant workers who are often abused or exploited. A Land Imagined explored this problem (among other things), so if you are interested in discovering a Singapore that is not often talked about, this movie is worth a watch.
You can find this movie on Netflix Japan. Let’s discuss this movie if you have watched it!