Golden era of Singapore Malay films focus of Asian Film Archive's arts series

State Of Motion, the Asian Film Archive's annual film and visual arts series, opened on Friday (Jan 12) at The Plaza, National Library Building.
State Of Motion, the Asian Film Archive's annual film and visual arts series, opened on Friday (Jan 12) at The Plaza, National Library Building. PHOTO: ZB
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, was the guest of honour at State Of Motion, the Asian Film Archive's annual film and visual arts series.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, was the guest of honour at State Of Motion, the Asian Film Archive's annual film and visual arts series. PHOTO: ZB
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, was the guest of honour at State Of Motion, the Asian Film Archive's annual film and visual arts series.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, was the guest of honour at State Of Motion, the Asian Film Archive's annual film and visual arts series. PHOTO: ZB

SINGAPORE -  Malay films made in Singapore during the 1950s and 1960s are the focus of the Asian Film Archive's film and visual arts series this year.

State Of Motion, the Asian Film Archive's annual film and visual arts series, opened on Friday (Jan 12) at The Plaza, National Library Building with Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, as guest of honour.

This year's programme, which features free film screenings, performances, talks and tours of film locations, will run till Feb 11.

The theme of the current edition is State Of Motion 2018: Sejarah-ku, which means "My history" in Malay, and focuses on films from Singapore's golden era of Malay cinema which took place in the decade before the nation's independence.

The aim is to showcase films as documents of social history, says Mr Thong Kay Wee, outreach executive of the Asian Film Archive and creative producer for State Of Motion 2018.

"We aimed for a broad representation of themes and genres, and we hope that the public can appreciate the historical context and social attitudes that were featured in the selected films.

"Through the screenings, the public can also connect to our past society as seen and imagined through the eyes of the film-makers," he says.

Mainly produced by Shaw Brothers' Malay Film Productions between 1955 and 1965, the 10 feature films on display cross genres, from comedy to drama and political commentary.

They include Mogok (1957), about disgruntled workers at an Eveready battery factory during a time of strikes and highly active trade unions; Hang Tuah (1956), about a fabled 15th-century Melaka warrior's loyalty to the Sultan, which was the first Malay film in colour but was highly criticised by the press for its veneration of royalty; and Selamat Tinggal Kekasehku (1955), a Malay adaptation of the 1936 Tamil film Devdas, based on the popular Bengali novel of the same title, which focuses on the star-crossed love between childhood friends Hassan and Lye Lye.

The free film screenings will take place in the 100-seat auditorium at the Malay Heritage Centre over the next month. Saturday's outdoor film screening of the P. Ramlee comedy Seniman Bujang Lapok (1961) is fully booked.

Free public talks and theatrical performances by visual art and music duo Nada, visual artists Muhammad Izdi and Zaki Razak, and playwright Irfan Kasban, will also be held at the heritage centre.

To provide cultural and historical context to the works, a State Of Motion exhibition at The National Library illuminates the events, ideas and discussions which were prevalent during the period of the films' production.

Film enthusiasts who are eager to learn more about the movies can join free guided tours of filming locations around Singapore, including Jalan Ampas, Punggol Point and Shaw's Villa in Upper East Coast Road. A location tour which takes attendees offshore to locations in Pulau Sekudu and Pulau Ubin on Jan 27 is fully booked.

Those on the tours will get to delve deeper into the story behind the films, the history of the film locations and enjoy newly commissioned performance art and installations inspired by the films, created by local artists such as Khairulddin Wahab, Izzad Radzali Shah, Tan Peiling and Mintio.

The State Of Motion programme is a highlight of Singapore Art Week 2018 (www.artweek.sg), which runs from Jan 17 to 28.

To learn more about the programme and sign up for screenings and activities, go to stateofmotion.sg.