When people ask me why we are preserving these Singapore films, I will explain how moving images are usually on fragile mediums (film, tapes, data) that require special care so it can last; how we take for granted that some things are here forever, but they disintegrate and decay. Like us. Like life. Every minute, it dies a little.
At a conference that I spoke recently, I realised they might have meant something else but were too kind to put an idealistic young man down. They meant to ask so what if they rot?
The Friday Girls were only together for one year in 1967. They cut a couple of records, appeared on television, and also performed at the National Theatre, accompanied by The Boys.
The print, the only one left in the world, of Moon Over Malaya (1957) directed by Chun Kim (assistant directed by Chor Yuen) reached us last month. We are preparing for the first Charity Screening to raise funds for the Asian Film Archive, a non-governmental and non-profit organisation, dedicated to save, explore and share the art of Asian Cinema. More details will be released soon.
Through the kind contribution of ?????, Lai Chee Kien and Bibah, we’ve managed to identify the location of this still: the garden of Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque, Johor Bahru.
Moon Over Malaya, also known as ??? or The Whispering Palm, was shot in Singapore and Malaysia. It was produced by Kong Ngee, founded by the Ho brothers (Ho Khee-yong and Ho Khee-siang). Shaw Brothers, Cathay Organisation and Kong Ngee were the three major studios in Singapore in the 50s. The Nanyang Trilogy by Kong Ngee in 1957, was shot in Singapore and Malaysia. Moon Over Malaya, the most acclaimed of the three films, was in Cantonese and starred Patrick Tse, Nam Hung and Patsy Kar Ling. The other two films of the trilogy were Blood Stains the Valley of Love and She Married an Overseas Chinese.
Other early Chinese films made in Singapore include:
1. New Immigrant or Xin Ke directed by Liu Pei Jing (1926) should be the first Chinese language film made in Singapore. The film, however, was lost. No film historian or scholar or programmer I know, has actually seen it.
2. Chinese filmmakers Hau Yaw and Wan Hai Ling directed 8 Malay films in Singapore with the Shaw Brothers from 1938-1941. Wan Hai Ling was also the first female director recruited to make feature films in Singapore.
3. Lion City (1960), directed by Yi Sui, was the first Chinese film in Mandarin, shot in Singapore and produced by Cathay-Keris. The Asian Film Archive holds this title in our collection.
“Vital evidence of the excellent work being done in Singapore.” Dave Kehr, Film Critic on Singapore Shorts Vol. 2.
In 2005, we took a leap of faith and produced a DVD anthology of Singapore short films – Asian Film Archive Collection: Singapore Shorts Vol. 1 to raise funds for our fledging organisation. Then, short films were seen only in art-house spaces. No one has published, marketed and distributed a DVD of short films in Singapore. Admittedly, it was a gamble that we took. It would decide if the Archive, then barely a few months old, would be able to find support from the community to carry on. As the founder, I was dipping into my own savings for more than six months already and I, too, needed a sign from the higher powers.
It was difficult. Even finding retailers to carry DVD was a challenge as it did not fall under any of their product categories. I remember one of many that rejected us: “It’s not that we do not want to support you but do not know where to place it on our shelves. It’s not a music CD nor a feature film.” Through sheer persistence by my fellow colleagues, supporters and volunters, we managed to do well enough to generate three re-prints of Singapore Shorts Vol. 1 and in so doing, provided crucial funding for the Archive, a non-governmental organisation. I must also add that without the ardent support of my board of directors – Kenneth Paul Tan, Kenneth Chan, Ong Sor Fern and Jacqueline Tan – who signed the banker’s guarantee for the production, this project would not have materialised at all.
After publishing a second DVD anthology in 2006 – Royston’s Shorts, we started planning for Singapore Shorts Vol. 2 in early 2008. As with every DVD project that we undertook, much resources and efforts were committed. Each member from the curation team (Karen Chan, Pauline Soh, Ethan Yeo, Daniel Koh: all my wonderful colleagues at the Archive) nominated what they felt should be included. The initial shortlist came up to about thirty short films from the Asian Film Archive Collection. As we believe in the depth and diversity of Singapore film talents, we decided to adhere to two guidelines in our second round of curation process: a) to feature filmmakers not showcased yet in Singapore Shorts Vol. 1, b) to feature short films not yet available on DVD so we do not duplicate efforts. The list withered down to half and a few possible themes also emerged to form cohesion for the films. We further did a check with the filmmakers and/or rights owners to check if we have their blessings for considering their films for the anthology. By late March, we began the arduous process of negotiating for rights clearance.
By July, the final list was confirmed and we proceeded to collate, conceptualise and design Singapore Shorts Vol.2. This is a selection of nine films, made between 1974 and 2007, from the Asian Film Archive Collection. Special features were also produced, some from scratch: audio-commentaries of all nine films, essays by scholars and critics, stills and storyboards. A noteworthy addition is the audio restoration work on Labour of Love – The Housewife, one of the earliest short films made in Singapore and exhibited and awarded in oversea film festivals in the 70s.
Each Asian Film Archive Collection DVD anthology is made with patience, pleasure and love. Through these films which have never been available on DVD yet, we hope the different facets of the Singapore society and family can be explored and better understood from these insightful and edifying angles.
A Family Portrait / Un Retrato De Familia (2004) directed by Boo Junfeng Absence (1997) directed by K. Rajagopal Autopsy (2007) directed by Loo Zihan Gourmet Baby (2001) directed by Sandi Tan Imelda Goes to Singapore (2006) directed by Brian Gothong Tan Labour of Love – The Housewife (1974-1979) directed by Rajendra Gour Match Made (2006) directed by Mirabelle Ang Wet Season (2007) directed by Michael Tay Hong Khoon Yesterday’s Play (2005) directed by Ryan Tan Wei Liang
“Singapore Shorts Vol. 2 succeeds as a platform for young cinematic voices to formulate emerging modes of political aesthetics to engage a new generation of discerning Singapore audiences.” – Assistant Professor Kenneth Chan, University of Northern Colorado
“A must-have for any film aficionado with a thirst for Singapore films.” – Stefan Shih, Twitch
“Taken together this set of short films chronicles not only the relatively permanent features of the realities of family life but also provides critical reflections and commentaries on the political relations between Singapore and some of its neighbouring countries, an unequal and economic hierarchical relation that strangely reflects and recalls the patriarchal and hierarchical structure of the male dominant family.” – Professor Chua Beng Huat and Associate Professor Vineeta Sinha, National University of Singapore