All In Recommends: Mushroom Boys
Posted on October 17, 2020 by All In
Written and illustrated by Rayna Chew
Directed by Eric Lin, Mushroom Boys was selected for the BAFTA Student Film Awards in 2019. Only 60 films were shortlisted from the 568 student film submissions across the world. Out of the 60 films, only 3 were from Asia.
Mushroom Boys is a short film about five boys with Down Syndrome, Hong An, Ryan, Mark, Mick and Lennard. These five boys work at Singapore’s Citizen Farm, where individuals with intellectual disabilities work in a supportive environment. At the farm, the boys grow and harvest mushrooms to sell. We see the fruits of their labour when they cook mushrooms for their families, as well as mend their booth and make sales at SG Cares Carnival.
This touching film brings out the loving and caring side of each of the Mushroom Boys as they interact with each other and with other members of the Citizen farm. Seeing the boys bickering amongst each other and making up right afterwards, I am reminded of my own experience with siblings. When I quarrel with my brother, we often take a long time to forgive and forget, yet these boys do so in a matter of seconds.
For example, after Hong An called Ryan out for fooling around, he said “Okay brother, I love you ah” when he realised Ryan was upset. In another incident, when Ryan was told off for shouting while everyone was packing soil, both Hong An and Mark offered hugs to console him, displaying empathy that is heartening to see. The film really shows us what it means to care for those around you and to look out for them.
The other members who run the farm are extremely attuned to each of the boys’ personalities. They support the boys and taught them the necessary skills. For example, the manager Mr Ong did not patronise them but treated them as he would any other worker. When the boys were late, he wanted to know why they were late and told them it was not okay to be late. This shows another level of respect for them as individuals. Kiat, the fungi cultivator expert from Edible Garden City, joked with the boys while encouraging them to get out of their comfort zone and take charge of both mushroom farming and sales.
At the Citizen Farm, the boys are able to work in an environment that allows them to flourish, and as Hong An said, it is where they belong.
Having had little experience with individuals with Down Syndrome, I had always thought about Down Syndrome as a genetic disorder, characterised by developmental delays. However, through this film, I realised that these people are more than that. They are wonderful and inspiring in their own unique ways, like Hong An who can lead the team, Ryan who lightens the mood with jokes, and Mark with his empathy for others.
Mushroom Boys is a lighthearted, uplifting film that masterfully depicts the efforts that these boys put into their daily work. I highly recommend watching it as this film will inspire us to reflect on our own experiences, and reminds us to cherish the people around us, just as these boys do. The entire short film is only around 16 minutes, but it is time well spent!
To watch Mushroom Boys, click here or the image below. The film is in the running for the Audience Choice Award in “Viddsee Juree Awards Singapore 2020”. Please show your support by clicking on the ❤️ and sharing the link or this article with your friends if Mushroom Boys speaks to you in some ways.
Q&A with the Director of Mushroom Boys
We were also very lucky that Eric Lin agreed to a Q&A with our founder Daniel!
Q: What made you choose this topic?
A: I love stories encompassing the human condition and especially stories of how underdogs overcome life’s challenges. As a documentary filmmaker, most of the time the story chooses me instead of me choosing the story. Apart from my personal interest in the subject matter, the other key factors are namely, accessibility to potential story characters, locations, and whether there is a story worth telling. In this case, I am very interested in farming, particularly urban farming. So it was during an open house visit to “Citizen Farm” that I came to know of this social enterprise set up called E4PID “Employment for People with Intellectual Disability” created to hire individuals with Down Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder to be involved in farming. It was only after one month of visiting the farm and getting to know them that I finally got permission from Mr Ong the manager and the boy’s parents to make this film.
Q: How did you feel after completing the film?
A: It was a great relief and I learnt so much about Down Syndrome, the parents and the boys in the process. I hope I did the boys justice in how I presented their story. The filming period was very challenging as my approach was to be as unintrusive as possible. Hence, I had to shoot a lot of material as I visited the farm sporadically over a period of 6 months to witness various stages of their work. Having to sieve out an angle for the story from the huge amount of footage was another challenge in itself. It was also a bittersweet ending as the last day of my shoot was also the last day of their operation. The operation had to stop because of manpower shortage and issues with equipment and processes. I still keep in touch with some of them today.
Q: What is your next work?
A: I made a nature environmental social documentary back in 2007 called “Remember Chek Jawa”. It’s about how a group of individuals from all walks of life followed their hearts and made a difference. Despite the odds, they managed to protect Chek Jawa from land reclamation by educating the public and providing feedback to the government. I hope to make a sequel to this to highlight other stories related to Chek Jawa and what it represents.
Once again, everybody please show your support by voting for Mushroom Boys! Click on the image below to watch and vote.
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