Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good evening. I am really very glad to be here at the Awards Ceremony for Season Four of the ciNE65 Short Film Competition. It is indeed an honour to join all of you in celebrating our local film talents and their creative depictions of what it means to call this little island of ours, home.

The theme of this year's competition, organised by Nexus, is "Home Truly", spelt with a little red dot right in the middle. It was initially a label used to put us down and remind us of our smallness and vulnerabilities as a nation. But today, we wear it like a badge of honour. The little red dot has become a symbol of strength, representing how we have turned constraints into opportunities, and defied all odds to build a successful and unique multi-racial and multi-religious country that we can all be proud of.

Many of you would agree with me that besides being moving and entertaining, the ciNE65 films also reflect our values, our hopes and dreams for Singapore, and what we want future generations of Singaporeans to have and cherish. Take for example the film The Red Packet, inspired by the director Muhammad Sufyan's Chinese grandmother who was adopted by a Malay family when she was young. The film reminds us that while Singapore may be small, we are one of the most multi-racial and religiously diverse countries in the world that continues to live in peace and harmony. As Singaporeans, we pledge to be one united people regardless of race, language or religion, and this belief is something we treasure and will fight to defend. However, while our diversity can be a source of strength, it can also be a source of friction, and something that our adversaries can exploit, if we are not careful.

Terrorism, for example, is a threat that often distorts the interpretation of religious beliefs to create fear and distrust between groups in society through propaganda and terror attacks. In recent years, we have seen more cases of self-radicalisation here in Singapore, including the 22-year-old Singaporean female infant-care assistant who was detained just a month back, and two auxiliary police officers who have also been arrested for terrorism-related offences, and more attacks around the world. As Singaporeans, we must collectively condemn any acts of terror, and not allow terrorism to sow seeds of doubt or discord in our hearts and minds. There is no space for attitudes that disparage any religion or harm our social cohesion in Singapore.

So to counter this threat, we must all play our part to build bonds and deepen trust within our community. Sometimes, all it takes is for you to make the first move, with a nod and a smile, or simply by holding the lift door for your neighbour. The film Nasi Opera shows us one way to create common spaces and strengthen bonds through every Singaporean's favourite pastime - makan. The film's director, Eddie Wong, was inspired by how Singaporeans would open their houses to friends and neighbours during Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali. His artistic interpretation of how good food unites Singaporeans from all backgrounds shows us what is possible when we make an effort to come together, look beyond our differences, and build friendships that last.

This year, we celebrate 50 years of National Service. This explains the high number of NS-related film submissions this season - films such as Ang Ku Kueh. Through the lens of director Chong Yu Lun, we put ourselves in the boots of a young NSF, uncertain of how his colour blindness would affect his NS journey. In just three minutes, Yu Lun wove a powerful story highlighting how important it is for the community to appreciate the sacrifices of our citizen soldiers and give them the support they need to give their best during NS. Since 1967, more than a million national servicemen have served their national service duties. We all have our own NS stories to tell, be it stories of the times when we served, or when we stood beside our family and friends as they served. No matter what your connection with NS is, we need to continue supporting this bedrock of our defence and the key reason for our peace and stability over the last 50 years.

There are many ways for us to show our support, through simple acts of kindness to the National Servicemen whom we meet, or by encouraging them through the "We Salute Our NSmen" campaign. Launched by SAFRA recently, this initiative encourages all to post a photo or video salute to our NSmen on social media, accompanied by words of appreciation and the hashtags #NS50salute and #safrasg. So tonight, you too can show our NSmen your support by sharing your favourite ciNE65 NS film and adding those hashtags.

Before I conclude, I would like to commend the shortlisted film-makers for their high quality entries. The films that stood out were simple yet meaningful stories told from the heart. One of our judges, Sanif Olek, commented that the storytelling aspects of this year's entries have shown significant improvements as compared to past seasons. Another judge, Jeremy Sing, added that the films in the student category showed a lot of maturity and did well in capturing the essence of the "Home Truly" theme.

For all participants, I hope that you have found the ciNE65 journey valuable in honing your craft. This year, we have a range of participants, including ciNE65 "addicts" such as Chong Yu Lun who has joined all four seasons of the competition, starting from when he was a student to setting up his own video production company at age 20. We also have a team of budding film-makers who are only 14 to 15 years old. I heard that one of our aspiring film-makers, Jaze Phua, even went on a bread and instant noodles diet just to save up enough money to make films. This is how seriously some of our young participants treat this art of film-making. Young or old, students or professionals, all of you have invested much thought and effort into the process and have grown together through the ciNE65 journey. Well done. Please give yourselves a big round of applause.

I would also like to thank everyone who has helped make this competition a success - our partners, judges and mentors as well as the schools that have been actively encouraging their students to participate in ciNE65. In a few moments, the winners for this year's competition will be announced. For our film-makers, whether you walk away with an award or not, remember that you have a role in shaping our Singaporean identity, and giving strength to those around you through your stories. All of you are winners. Continue to believe in yourselves and put your talent to good use as we build a stronger and more resilient society together.

Thank you everyone for your presence this evening.

Source: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (MINDEF)