Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead.
Eye-opening. That was the first word that came to mind when I was leaving the theatre after watching local film Not My Mother’s Baking. More than just a romance comedy and culinary drama, this local film explores the complex interracial and interfaith relations that are ever so present and not so talked about in Singapore.
Sarah (Sarah Ariffin) decides to strike out on her own by producing a series called Not My Mother’s Baking – much to the dismay of her mother, who’s a celebrity baker. She gets professional help from a vlogger, Edwin (Kaydash Cheung), to film her baking videos. The Chinese boy and the Malay girl had a rough start due to some misunderstandings, but they became closer and eventually got together.
As the plot unravels, we get to follow the couple as they navigate the cultural and religious differences between a Malay and a Chinese family in Singapore.
Watch the trailer below for more:
Interracial and interfaith relationships
The movie does a good job in highlighting the issues surrounding interracial relationships in modern Singapore. Although interracial marriages are more common here now, I do not have many Muslim friends who date or marry out of their race, so I never knew just how complicated things could get in such relationships before watching the film.
A scene that leaves a deep impression on me is how Edwin has to face much harsher consequences compared to his girlfriend, Sarah, when both break the news to their families.
When Edwin visits Sarah’s family, the vibe is friendly and the banters are playful. The conversation about their relationship does turn serious but it’s still accepting.
This is in stark contrast to the event that unfolded in Edwin’s household. Not only does Edwin’s mother want him to stop dating a Malay girl, she screams at Edwin in Mandarin: “You better not bring trouble back home!” Her outburst shocks me. Why is Sarah a “trouble” to her family? I could feel myself holding my breath with the tension rising in the movie theatre.
There are also scenes depicting the lack of understanding about one another’s culture and customs in the film. For example, Edwin’s father, a roast pork seller, suggests that he could adapt his family recipe and make “Halal” roast pork for Sarah’s family. Though he has good intentions, it’s clear that he doesn’t know Muslims are forbidden from eating pork – whether it’s done in the Halal way or not.
To register a marriage under Muslim law in Singapore, both the groom and bride have to be Muslims. Hence, Edwin has to go for a faith conversion ceremony before his marriage to Sarah.
I find this scene particularly heartening as the faith conversion is led by an Ustazah, a female religious leader, instead of an Ustaz. Singapore is the first country in the world to allow women to preside over such events, and I’m glad the film makes use of this scene to pay homage to the breakthrough in gender equality in the Muslim community here.
Of course, it’d be great if there’s more buildup before Edwin’s conversion to Islam. As a viewer, I want to know how the couple talk through this decision and discuss its impact on their future children. Now it seems like Edwin converts his faith just for the sake of marrying Sarah.
I like that while the film is addressing the faultlines in Singapore, the story is driven by a subject that unites us all: food. From the title of the film, one can already expect a visual feast of delicious and tantalising local delights. And Remi, who’s worked on TV culinary shows like Cinta Kek, did not disappoint.
I also like the multilingual dialogue in the film as it reflects everyday Singapore, although the interactions between some characters are slightly awkward.
As the end credits rolled on screen, there was a round of applause from the audience and I too, followed suit. Though the film has its hits and misses, it still deserves credit for presenting important issues that are often swept under the rug — in a delectable way.
Not My Mother’s Baking (NC16) is showing at Filmgarde Cineplex Bugis and Century Square till Jan 27 2021 (tentative).