Director's Statement

My current art practice examines historiography and how the history-making process has shaped national identity. I am interested in the untold parts of history that have been passed over or forgotten.

In 2008, I made a short film about a fictitious political detainee who returns to the island where he was exiled. Subsequently, my visual art exhibitions have also dealt with topics such as alternative histories, language and identity, student activism, social dislocation and the social-cultural understanding of landscape. In a way, all these artistic explorations have finally culminated in this feature film. I have always wondered about the lives of ex-political detainees after their release and how they and their families have coped through the years. Thus I set about constructing a story inspired by these people. I imagined scenarios that might have existed, or maybe not at all, and spun my own poignant tale.

For the visual treatment, I wanted to create something naturalistic yet dream-like. To reflect the protagonist’s state of mind, I wanted to show his grappling with the past and present, by collapsing the idea of time as linear. As a result, there are several surrealistic scenes where time stands still, or where the past and present co-exist in the same shot. To echo how time has stretched for the protagonist over the years, I used mainly long sequence shots, resulting in a slow and meditative rhythm.

I hope the direction of this film reflects the protagonist’s journey of sacrifice and his need to reconnect with his family and the world around him. It is a story filled with quiet tension and contrasts, between fragility and strength, loss and beliefs, turmoil and hope.

Director's Bio

Green Zeng is a multi-disciplinary artist who works in both film and visual arts. His current practice explores issues related to historiography and identity. He has directed many short films such as Blackboard Whiteshoes, which was selected for the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, and Passenger, which in the same year was awarded the Encouragement Prize at the Akira Kurosawa Memorial Short Film Competition in Tokyo. He is currently the Creative Director of Singapore film production company Mirtillo Films. The Return is his first feature film and it was selected for the 30th Venice International Film Critics’ Week.


Feature Film
2015 - The Return

Short Films
2009 - Blank Rounds
2008 - Sentosa
2006 - Passenger
2004 - Island
2002 - Blackboard Whiteshoes