Terror series brings to life Malayan Emergency

New series by producer of Every S'porean Son looks at 1950s communist scourge here

In late 2014, local film-maker Dominic Ow had the chance to interview former Special Branch detectives who fought against communist insurgents in the 1950s.

What he discovered about the period fascinated him. "It was when Singapore lost its innocence in the context of modern-day terrorism. There were bomb attacks on police stations, assassinations," said the 43-year-old producer of the well-received 2010 documentary series on national service, Every Singaporean Son.

Mr Ow's research into the communist insurgency for another project gave him the idea for a fictional series drawn from real-life events. He directed and produced it with funding from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Yesterday, a media screening of the series, titled Age Of Terror, was held at the National Library in Victoria Street. On Thursday, a screening was held at the same venue for Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and more than 100 students and teachers from secondary schools and junior colleges.

The series delves into the violence and ideological struggles that occurred when the Malayan Communist Party sought to establish communism in Singapore after World War II.

More than 8,000 people were killed or injured in the insurgency.

The series follows a fictional Special Branch detective as he lives through events inspired by history, such as the bombings of police establishments in 1956.

Mr Ow hopes the new series will bring clarity to the chaos of the Malayan Emergency.

"Like many who grew up in Singapore, the history I studied in school was less a narrative than a series of data points," he said. "We have to have a better sense of our history, not just from 1965 onwards, but a longer view of history."

Another aim of the series, he said, was to remind viewers of the continuing threat of terrorism.

Mr Ow was writing Age Of Terror when the terror attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo took place last year. It impressed on him the need to discuss terrorism through his series.

"It was never far from our minds that as a story, it (Age Of Terror) needed to have parallels to what is happening today... Singapore is not immune to terrorism. The ideologies might change, the methods might change somewhat, but the possibility of this happening is always there."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'Terror series brings to life Malayan Emergency'. Print Edition | Subscribe