A Proposal for the Production Of
Across the Borders
Crossing the bridge
Across the bridge
The Cost of the Commute
A 30 minute documentary
MOV 1080p HD Video
Youtube, Vimeo and other online platforms
More than 100,000 Malaysians cross the woodlands causeway to Singapore daily for employment or education. This film exploring the struggles and sacrifice these people endure as they cross one of the busiests border crossings in the world.
The Johor-Singapore causeway connecting Singapore and Malaysia was completed in the 1923 to meet the demands of cross border traffic from the Johor Straits. Fast forward 93 years to the present, this 1.05KM link is now one of the busiest land crossings in the world with an estimated average of 300,000 people crossing it daily.
A large majority of these daily commuters are Malaysians living in the southernmost state of Johor Bahru. With the close proximity to Singapore and relatively higher value of the Singapore dollar these malaysians find Singapore a very attractive destination to find employment. A Malaysian working in Singapore could get three times the salary while still keeping their cost of living low commuting daily across the border.
In a society that favors progress and many are not afraid to put in some level of sacrifice in the pursuit of upward social mobility. This is rooted deeply in the Asian psyche and it is no surprise that a majority of these cross border commuters are Malaysian Chinese. But are these sacrifices proportional to the gains?
To travel to Singapore, many commuters leave their homes in Malaysia as early as 4am and reach home late at night. After spending close to five hours a day on commuting, there is little time left for family, social, recreational activities or even sleep. This can result is strained relationships and poor physical and mental health.
Some Malaysian parents also send their children to schools in Singapore as they feel that the educational system in Malaysia is inadequate and sending their children to the public schools in Singapore would be cheaper than a private school in Malaysia. Subject to the same grueling schedule as adult cross border commuters, these schoolchildren are also subject to the same lack of family, social, recreational activities. One can argue that despite a superior education system, its benefits are negated if the child does not have a holistic learning environment.
We live in an era where tolerance is a highly valued trait. On the surface we do not approve of enforcing stereotypes towards people different from us. But beneath it all, what do these cross border commuters think of Singaporeans? Do they still hold fast to the “kiasu” Singaporean phenotype. How do Singaporeans view Malaysians who only travel to Singapore for work? Are they like treated like an invisible army of workers who we know will return back to Malaysia and we turn a blind eye to their needs? There are sporadic news reports on papers both sides of the borders about the congestion of the causeway, but aside from there, there hasn’t been any longitudinal studies about the effects of daily cross border long commutes in this region.
For these Malaysians, being stuck in traffic in the long commute almost becomes a daily ritual. With ritual comes a shared set of beliefs, norms and mores. From their outlook in life, to how they treat someone who cuts the queue. Each person tells a story of sacrifice, determination, creativity and the human spirit in hopes of a better life for themselves and their family