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An acclaimed Singaporean movie-maker humbled by a plumber

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Tzang Merwyn Tong, an award-winning underground filmmaker and screenwriter from Singapore, has shared his views about a picture shared by the Facebook group Humans of Singapore.
In their post, Humans of Singapore shared the story of a ‘Garbage Man’s’ saddest day of his life. In saying that he can relate to what the ‘Garbage Man’ said and Tzang shared his own story of a plumber he met in Berlin.
We republish Mr Tzang’s Facebook note in full.

There’s been a Humans of Singapore post going on about a man upset that he was referred to as ‘garbage man’, and that his job has become his identity. I can relate. Reminds me of the time when i was in Berlin for the European Premiere of e’TZAINTES (my first film).
In the post screening Q&A, a scruffy member of the audience stood up and asked me many questions – difficult questions about my film – all in German. I answered all of them to his satisfaction with the help of a translator.
At the end of the Q&A, he thanked me for screening e’Tzaintes in Berlin. “It was a smart movie. I don’t know Singapore youth to be so angry.” I was very humbled. He told me he bought a ticket because he loved the art on the poster.
I told him I loved his questions. I asked him what he does for a living. I was expecting to hear something like – film academic or critic. He told me he’s a plumber. A plumber who loves film a lot.
It reminds me how differently Europeans and Asians see their professions. In other cultures, a job is not an identity, and it does not define who we are. I can be a bus driver, a road sweeper, a president or a dishwasher, but I can appreciate good food, fine wine, great music, art, and books all the same (as long as I can afford a ticket). In fact, I heard it’s rude to ask a person in France what he or she does for a living.
If we are having a good conversation about cinema, or art or poetry, there is not need to ask me what I do, as my job does not validate the value of my opinion or ideas.
The wonderful things I learn from a plumber.

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