Believe it or not, there actually was an era when the names Fandi Ahmad and Abbas Saad were a lot more recognizable among Singaporean football fans than the likes of Ryan Giggs or Michael Owen. Those times have long past, but directors Hanafi Ramdan and Yanfeng Lee, and writer Daniel Yap (in their feature film debut) definitely haven’t forgotten about them.
The Kallang Wave is, at its core, predominantly about the rise and fall of local football. The twist that the filmmakers throw in, however, is to parallel the soccer scene here with the progression of Singapore as a nation to see if there’s some kind of connection between our declining interest in local football and our increasing affluence.
Yes, the concept does sound pretty flimsy. The interviewees—a mix of every day fans and a who’s who from the local football scene—seem to be going around in circles at times and, as expected, nothing really gets resolved. The narration, which tries a little too hard to be typically Singaporean, doesn’t help much either, coming off more as an annoying distraction than something we’re supposed to be able to relate to.
The real strength of The Kallang Wave isn’t as a documentary, but as a trip down memory lane. Think of it as a VH1’s Behind The Music special for Singaporean soccer: The nostalgic charge that comes from watching archived footage of the Singaporean national team’s time in the Malaysian Cup alone will satisfy anyone old enough to remember when local football was a whole lot more revered.
But other than that, there really isn’t anything terribly special about The Kallang Wave. It’s not a bad film, but if you’ve never had an interest in Singaporean soccer, then this won’t offer anything that you’d be interested in.
You’ll Dig The Kallang Wave If You…:
– Actually remember those Uncle Toby biscuit ads with Fandi Ahmad.
– Know that Dollah Kassim isn’t a Malay dish.
– Still use the phrase “Referee kelong!” (which loosely means that the referee’s been bribed).