Catch free screenings of early Singapore films at Capitol Theatre

Five films from the golden age of local movies will be screened at the spruced-up Capitol Theatre for free

A still from Ninaithale Inikkum.
A still from Ninaithale Inikkum.PHOTO: LOTUS FIVE STAR

There is plenty of new content being produced for SG50, but there is much to discover from Singapore's rich past as well.

Under the Spotlight On Singapore Cinema initiative, five films from the golden age of local movies - the 1950s to 1970s - will be screened at the spruced-up Capitol Theatre from Aug 20 to 23.

Admission is free and tickets are available through Sistic.

The project is led by the Media Development Authority in collaboration with the National Library Board, National Archives of Singapore, Asian Film Archive and the National Museum of Singapore Cinematheque.

While the use of dialect is now restricted in local films because of the Speak Mandarin Campaign, there was a time when local films were made entirely in Hokkien.


  • WHERE: Capitol Theatre

    WHEN: Aug 20 to 23

    ADMISSION: Free, tickets are available through Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to

Hsu Chiao Meng's Taming Of The Princess (1958), which will be screened, is a Hokkien period opera film based on a Tang dynasty story about a princess who is rebuked for not attending a birthday celebration.

This is the sole surviving Amoydialect film, of the three made by Singapore studios in the 1950s.

Opera perfomer Xiao Jin Zhi, now 76, was originally supposed to play the part of the empress.

"I was in my 20s then and was told I was too young to play the empress, so I took on the role of Wusao (fifth sister-in-law)," she tells Life in Mandarin.

Her husband, Liu Hu Chen, 80, acted as the emperor.

The couple were part of the Sin Kee Lin Hokkien Opera Troupe and still perform as members of the Xiao Kee Lin Opera Troupe.

Of their lone brush with the film industry, Xiao says: "Actors were more obedient back then, so whatever the boss said, we would just go along."

It was no fun-filled glamorous project but a "very tough" shoot.

"We had to film till the wee hours (at the Keris Film Studio) in Changi. There were not that many houses there. It was pretty rural and very dark at night," Xiao says.

Another movie that will be shown at Capitol Theatre is The Lion City (1960), which was veteran television actress Chen Mong's first film.

Chen, who is now around 80, also recalls a long shoot that lasted until daybreak on the set of the movie, which was the first Chinese film produced by Cathay-Keris in post-war Singapore. Chen played the cousin of the male lead.

She says, though, that it was "not too tough" because she enjoyed it. Indeed, she had taken up acting against the wishes of her businessman father.

How did she manage to slip away for late-night shoots?

She says with a laugh: "My dad had two wives and he was shuttling between them."

Chen later acted in TV and was in the first black-and-white drama Huang Jin Wan Liang (Ten Thousand Taels Of Gold).

She now gives private singing lessons and still performs with the singing group that bears her name, Chen Mong Mei Sheng Yue Tuan.

The other three films to be screened are Malay period action drama Chuchu Datok Merah (1963), early P. Ramlee drama Patah Hati (1952) and Tamil romantic comedy Ninaithale Inikkum (1979). The movies will take audiences down memory lane as they were filmed in and around Singapore.

Patah Hati was shot at locations such as Kallang Airport, Rex Cinema and Alkaff Gardens, while Ninaithale Inikkum featured Paya Lebar Airport, Mount Faber, Orchard Towers and the Singapore River.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2015, with the headline 'Spotlight on rich past of cinema'. Print Edition | Subscribe