Annual event turns lens on golden era of Malay films

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, with veteran actress Zaiton Abdullah, 80, who starred in Sri Menanti (background), at the opening of the State Of Motion series at the National Library Building yesterday.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, with veteran actress Zaiton Abdullah, 80, who starred in Sri Menanti (background), at the opening of the State Of Motion series at the National Library Building yesterday.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Asian Film Archive's State Of Motion offers free screenings, talks, tours to film locations

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.

The annual series, called State Of Motion, opened yesterday at The Plaza at the 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, said 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 said.

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.

  • STATE OF MOTION

  • WHAT: Free screenings of films, talks and cultural performances as well as guided tours of filming locations

  • WHERE: Malay Heritage Centre and other locations

  • WHEN: Jan 12 to Feb 11

  • MORE INFORMATION:

    stateofmotion.sg

They include Mogok (1957), about disgruntled workers at an Eveready battery factory during a time of strikes and highly active trade unions; and 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 contemporary press for its veneration of royalty.

The free film screenings will take place in the 100-seat auditorium at the Malay Heritage Centre over the next month (tonight's outdoor film screening of 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 wish to learn even more about the movies can join guided tours of filming locations around Singapore, including Jalan Ampas, Punggol Point and Shaw's Villa in Upper East Coast Road. The tours cost $15 a person. 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 their 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.

Members of the public can learn more about the State Of Motion programme and sign up for screenings and activities at stateofmotion.sg.

Correction note: The article has been updated to clarify that the guided tours cost $15 a person.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2018, with the headline 'Annual event turns lens on golden era of Malay films'. Print Edition | Subscribe