Commissioned by the National Arts Council (NAC), Utter is an annual Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) initiative which showcases the best of Singapore writing and celebrates its potential to be adapted into different media and across languages, giving audiences fresh perspectives and a deeper understanding of our home-grown authors.

In this year’s edition, we highlight the remarkable poetry and stories of four highly-distinguished writers—J.M. Sali, Gregory Nalpon, Tan Swie Hian, and former deputy prime minister S. Rajaratnam. They have been adapted with nuance and sensitivity by veterans K. Rajagopal and Lee Thean-jeen into live-action short films, and with boundless imagination by Henry and Harry Zhuang, and Jerrold Chong into animation shorts, respectively.


  • Director: Lee Thean-jeen
  • Adaptation: Gregory Nalpon’s short story, from the book “The Wayang at Eight Milestones” edited by Angus Whitehead
  • Synopsis: When Margaret, a kindergarten teacher, admonishes her six-year-old student, Ee Leng, for bringing a dog to school one morning, she is shocked to find a death threat on her desk at recess time. This sets off a chain of incidents that spirals into tragedy in a surreal meditation on the pressures of living in a contemporary urban society and the impact they have on both the young and the elderly.


  • Director: Jerrold Chong
  • Adaptation: S. Rajaratnam’s short story, from the book “The Short Stories and Radio Plays of S. Rajaratnam” edited by Irene Ng
  • Synopsis: A husband and wife grapple with the tragic death of their firstborn as they await the arrival of their second. Their recollections reveal a dark, repressed history within the shared space they call home. Adapted from S. Rajaratnam’s short story of the same name, “What Has to Be” explores the dysfunctional relationship between two grieving parents as they confront the inevitable truth of their unborn child.


Director: K. Rajagopal
Adaptation: J.M. Sali’s book
Synopsis: This is a love story about an Indian man who meets and falls in love with a Chinese woman in Singapore by chance, but she discovers that he is actually married back home in India. Told from the perspective of the writer—who is played by more than one actor, and who also plays the character—the film blurs the lines between roles, reality, time and space. The words and text of the writer also interplay with the sound of silence and the actions of the actors and characters.


Director: Henry & Harry Zhuang
Adaptation: Tan Swie Hian’s poetry
Synopsis: A school of fish is washed up on a barren island. While the other fish choose to swim back to the sea, one redfish decides to venture deeper into the barren island.

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