WATCH: Award-winning director creates stunning short film for Raffles Singapore

Kirsten Tan’s short film is a bit too late for the Oscars but its timeless story will forever be in the heart of Raffles Singapore.

‘We Were Built’ draws inspiration from the hotel’s rich literary heritage.

Its title comes from a poem of the same name, which was penned by Amanda Lee Koe, the youngest Literature Prize Winner in Singapore.

It’s an emotive short film, commissioned by Raffles Singapore. And now, let me tell you about the woman behind the lens.

Kirsten Tan Portrait
Portrait of Singaporean director Kirsten Tan

Kirsten Tan is a local filmmaker with over 15 international awards on her résumé. Her films have reached far beyond Singapore, gaining recognition in over 60 international film festivals.

In 2017, she was the first Singaporean to compete at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Her debut feature film won the Special Jury Award for Screenwriting, and she was honoured with the Young Artist Award by the National Arts Council – the highest accolade for artistic achievement for young artists in Singapore.

A hotel with character 

Kirsten Tan’s close interaction with the hotel influenced the making of ‘We Were Built’.

Tan said, “The moment I stepped in, its distinctive quality is inescapable. Corinthian pillars, a tinkling piano, dark wood patios, a scented pillow. I wanted to capture that aura of lyrical timelessness, that sumptuous pause that counteracts the hectic fever of modern life.”

If you’ve already seen the short film above, you’ll know what she’s talking about.

Raffles Hotel Singapore

Here’s more of what Tan has to say about the hotel:

“Like many Singaporeans, I’ve felt special reverence for Raffles Hotel through the years. I’ve always been particularly moved by the proud literary history of the Raffles. It hosted and inspired world-famous writers from Somerset Maugham to Rudyard Kipling.”

“We’re also deeply honoured to have legendary Chinese American movie star, Lisa Lu, who performed in acclaimed titles like The Last Emperor and The Joy Luck Club,” she added.

Kirsten Tan Behind the scenes of We Were Built
Tan on the set with Chinese-born American actress and singer, Lisa Lu

“Raffles Hotel is a landmark and a constant, quietly and proudly bearing witness to our shared histories and futures. It was imperative for me to illustrate how she stands silent, strong and storied – as elegant, eternal and essential as time itself,” Tan added.

“This film is an ode to these writers, to time, to Raffles’ exquisite affiliations with these great minds through the 130 years of its existence.”

Check out the behind-the-scenes footage below:


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