A third rendezvous this December

27 11 2013

Something to look forward to at the end of next week: the 3rd Rendezvous With French Cinema, which brings some of the best of French contemporary cinema to Singapore. The film festival will take place from 5 December to 8 December 2013 with 14 films being screened, opening with the The Nightingale (Le promeneur d’oiseau) at the Mastercard Theatres at MarinaBay Sands on 5 December.

The Nightingale which makes its Southeast Asian premiere as part of Screen Singapore is directed by Philippe Muyl, was shot in China and features an all-Chinese cast and is one of two films being screened which are Franco-Asian collaborative efforts. The other is a short film directed by Singaporean Jow Zhi Wei After the Winter (Au-dela de l’hiver). Jow Zhi Wei is a recent graduate of the prestigious Le Fresnoy post-graduate school in France and his 19 minute film which was selected for The Cinefondation Selection at the Cannes Film Festival will be shown just before the screenings for The Nightingale.

Other films that will be screened during the four day festival is Michael Kohlhaas, a period drama which centres around a horsedealer directed by Arnaud des Pallières, and Möbius, a spy thriller directed by Éric Rochant. The debut of both films in Singapore will see the attendance of the respective directors, Arnaud des Pallières and Éric Rochant.  The screenwriter of Michael Kohlhaas, Christelle Berthevas, will also be in Singapore for what will be the film’s premiere in Asia. 

Tickets are priced at $12 for screeings at The Cathay Cineplex, Golden Village Marina and Shaw Theatres Lido and at $11 at Alliance Française Theatre. Information on ticketing and the programme can be found at www.rendezvouswithfrenchcinema.sg.


The previous rendezvous:

1st Rendezvous
2nd Rendezvous


Selections from the 3rd Rendezvous With French Cinema Film Programme

(for the full programme, do visit: www.rendezvouswithfrenchcinema.sg)

The Nightingale
(Le promeneur d’oiseau)

In Mandarin with English subtitles, Drama, China & France, 2013,100 mins
Rating: PG
Director: Philippe Muyl
Cast: Li Bao Tian, Li Xiao ran, Qin Hao, Yang Xin Yi

6 Dec, 6.30pm: Alliance française Theatre [Preceded by the screening of short film After the Winter (Au-delà de l'hiver)]

7 Dec, 2.00pm: The Cathay Cineplex

Zhigen has lived alone in Beijing for over 20 years after moving to the city to allow his son Chongyi to attend university. He decides to make the long journey from Beijing to Yangshuo to honour the promise he made to his wife to bring back the bird that has been his only companion in the city. He takes along his granddaughter Renxing. While grandfather and granddaughter set out on their journey, they ponder the meaning of the life they have led in the sole pursuit of success and money.

———-

After the Winter
(Au-delà de l’hiver)

In French with English subtitles, Short Film, France, 2013, 19 mins
Rating: PG
Director: Jow Zhi Wei

6 Dec, 6.30pm: Alliance française Theatre [Followed by the screening of The Nightingale (Le promeneur d’oiseau)]

An old couple living in a small village goes through their everyday rituals. However, each day they seem to be waiting for something. A metaphorical tale of tumult and the loneliness we life in.

Singaporean Director Jow Zhi Wei graduated from the Puttnam School of Film at Lasalle and under the scholarship by Institut Français Singapour, has completed his Masters programme this year at Le Fresnoy, the prestigious post-graduate art school and audio-visual research and production centre in France. To make this short movie, he spent more than a month living with his subjects on Penghu Island in Taiwan. His hard work paid off in the form of a nomination in the Cinéfondation Selection of the Cannes Film Festival.

———-

Michael Kohlhaas

In French with English subtitles, Period Drama, France, 2013, 122 mins
Rating: M18 – Sexual scenes and nudity
Director: Arnaud des Pallières
Cast: Mads Mikkelson, Mélusine Mayance, Delphine Chuillot, David Kross, Bruno Ganz

6 Dec, 9:15pm: Alliance française Theatre
8 Dec, 2:00pm: The Cathay Cineplex

Winner of the Golden Iris Award for Best Film at the Brussels Film Festival 2013 – The Cévennes in the 16th century. Michael Kohlhaas, a horse-dealer, leads a happy and prosperous family life until he suffers an injustice carried out by a lord. This pious and simple man raises an outlaw army and lays waste to the country by war in order to establish his rights once again.

———-

Möbius

In French with English subtitles, Thriller, France, 2013, 109 mins
Rating: M18 – Sexual scenes
Director: Éric Rochant
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Cécile de France, Tim Roth, Emilie Dequenne, Oleksii Gorbunov
7 Dec, 9:00pm: Alliance française Theatre
8 Dec, 7:20pm: Shaw Theatres Lido

Gregory Lioubov, alias Moses, a Russian secret services officer, is sent to Monaco in order to keep watch over a powerful businessman. For this mission, his team hires Alice, a top-notch financial expert who infiltrates the company. Gregory suspects that Alice has betrayed them; he breaks the golden rule and makes contact with his clandestine agent. An impossible passion develops between them which inexorably leads to their downfall.





Royston Tan’s Old Romances《老情人》

7 12 2012

In a world that is changing too fast, it is often only the memories of places dear to us that we are able to cling on to, memories in which we often discover what we have left behind. As with its forerunner Old Places, Royston Tan’s seeks to discover that through the words of the man on the street, and discover in each, “an old lover’s story waiting to be untold”. The stories explore many places in which we as Singaporeans may have collective memories in, and of which in the words of the director “almost 50% will be gone by the time we premiere this”. The premiere of Old Romances and a screening of Old Places will take place over the weekend of 15/16 Dec 2012 at the National Museum. More information can be found listed below. Tickets for the screenings cost S$11 (including handling fees) or S$10 for Senior Citizens and are available at TICKETBOOTH. DVDs will be on sale on both days with autograph signing sessions arranged. Part of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the charity Action for Aids.

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Film Schedule

15 December 2012, Saturday

2.30pm: Old Romances followed by Q&A

16 December 2012, Sunday

2.30pm: Old Places followed by Q&A
4.30pm: Old Romances followed by Q&A

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Ticketing Information

S$11 per ticket (includes handling fees)
S$10 per ticket (Senior Citizen concession, includes handling fees)

Tickets can be purchased at TICKETBOOTH outlets or on the TICKETBOOTH website www.ticketbooth.com.sg

Venue

National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre, Basement


About Old Romances《老情人》

“Old places are like old lovers to me, you never forget them.” – Royston Tan

Comic Shop 2

Executive Producer: Royston Tan

Directors: Royston Tan, Eva Tang and Victric Thng

67 min / Documentary

Synopsis

There is romance in every corner we turn. In this sequel to the documentary, Old Places, Old Romances takes us on a journey to experience Singapore through the collective voices of ordinary Singaporeans.

Through their voices, we hear personal stories from members of the public who shared their anecdotes on radio. Everyday spaces come alive with these special memories, which are bonded forever with these places.

Old Romances is a journal of love letters to places that we grew up with.

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Director’s Statement

“What triggered me to do Old Romances was the great public response for wanting a sequel to Old Places. I believe that in every old place, there is always an old lover’s story waiting to be untold. How great is it to have this story told by ordinary Singaporeans from all walks of life. I received an email recently from a lady who was taking the MRT and as she looked out of the train at everything that seemed so familiar, they were really places that were depleting by the minute. It’s almost like we Singaporeans are suffering from the dementia of our society due to our rapid urban development. With this, I feel the need to archive all the stories and old places of which almost 50% will be gone by the time we premiere this.”

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Places featured

  • Tanjong Pagar Canteen at Tanjong Pagar
  • Lee Kee Book Company at Chinatown
  • Lim Kay Khee Optical House at Balestier Road
  • Carnival Beauty Salon at East Coast Road
  • Sembawang Hill Estate Taxi Service at Sembawang Hill
  • Kim Choo Kueh Chang at East Coast Road
  • Chop Wah Hin Sheet Metal Works at Balestier Road
  • Seng Hong Coffeeshop at Lengkok Bahru
  • Gim Joo Textile Co Pte Ltd at Arab Street
  • New Century Record Co. at Tanjong Katong
  • Poh Onn Tong Medical Shop at Tanglin Hall
  • Thin Huat Provision Shop at Tanglin Hall
  • Hong San See Temple at Mohd Sultan
  • Kong Tee Peng Temple at Chinatown
  • Lao Sai Tao Yuan Teochew Wayang
  • Sliat Walk Estate
  • Feng Huang Puppet Troupe
  • Yet Con Chicken Rice at Purvis Street
  • Bukit Merah View Hair Dressing Salon at Bukit Merah
  • Old Playgrounds
  • Pearl Bank Apartments at Chinatown
  • St Joseph Church at Victoria Street
  • Japanese Cemetery at Chuan Hoe Avenue
  • Cashin House at Lim Chu Kang
  • St John Island
  • Union Farm Eating House at Clementi Road
  • Tan Moh Hong Reptile Skin & Crocodile Farm at Upper Serangoon Road
  • Klins Dog Unit at Ulu Pandan Road
  • Bukit Timah Saddle Club at Bukit Timah
  • Colbar Eating House at Whitchurch Road
  • Serangoon Bus Interchange at Serangoon Road
  • Teo Seng Heng Provision Shop at West Coast Road
  • New Chay Hong Beauty Parlour at Lorong Lulian
  • Lo Song Leng Dentist at Balestier Road
  • Wong Yiu Nam Medical Hall at Chinatown
  • Shashlik Restaurant at Far East Shopping Center
  • Upper Seletar Reservoir at Upper Seletar
  • Kovan Coffeeshop at Simon Road
  • Thye Moh Chan Cake House at Geylang Road

Yet Con 2


About Old Places 《老地方》

Remembering forgotten places in Singapore through the eyes of ordinary people

Executive Producer: Royston Tan
Directors: Royston Tan, Eva Tang and Victric Thng
77 min / Documentary

“I want to archive these places before they are lost forever.” – Royston Tan

Synopsis

Old Places shows us the oft-forgotten yet almost immediately familiar areas in Singapore through the eyes of ordinary people. Prior to the production, members of the public were invited to call in to the radio to recount their significant memories of places in Singapore – places that will soon disappear or be redeveloped.

These personal stories come alive through the callers’ narration and the stunning visuals that capture the nostalgia and hidden beauty of the places. Re-discover Singapore and journey to places like a playground in Toa Payoh, a barbershop at Commonwealth Avenue, Capitol cinema, and an unassuming bakery in Whampoa.

Old Places celebrates personal stories of joy, love or loss, and weaves them into a tapestry of memories amounting to a collective and yet typical story of life in Singapore.

Old Places first screened on Okto on the eve of National Day 2010 where it recorded the highest ratings for any documentary screened that year, and received an overwhelming number of requests from the public for a repeat screening, which was subsequently arranged by Okto on 24 August.

Past screenings

Old Places was screened at the Esplanade from 13 July to 26 August 2012 in the Our Places, Our Stories exhibition.

It has also been shown once at the National Library, five times on television (even till now where they cut the film into 10-minute snippets), twice in schools for National Day Parade last year (once in SOTA and once in NTU), and had one community screening.

After the National Museum, it will next screen at a community museum in Taman Jurong in January 2013, organised by the National Heritage Board and the Singapore Art Museum.

Playground 1


Directors’ Bios

Royston Tan

A graduate from Temasek Polytechnic, Royston Tan’s films have screened worldwide at film festivals and received over 75 awards. He has made 4 feature length films and continues to work within the short film genre when the right idea comes along. Tan is one of the most influential filmmakers locally. In 2002, the National Arts Council honoured him with the Young Artist Award. In 2004, Time Magazine cited Tan as one of the ‘Top 20 Asian Heroes’. In 2010, Tan received the Singapore Youth Award, the highest youth accolade from the National Youth Council.

During his days as a student, Tan won the NTU All-School Students’ Photo-Videographic Competition: First prize for Music Video for Remains (1995) and the UTV International Book Prize for Adam.Eve.Steve (1997).

After graduation, Tan received the Best Short Film and Special Achievement Award for the short film Sons in 2000. In 2001, his short film Mother received the Voice Award at The Substation’s Singapore Short Film Festival. He has won two awards at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival: the Canal+ Award 2005 for Cut and the Grand Prix for Monkey Love in 2007.

Tan remains one of the few filmmakers in Singapore who straddles both the commercial film world and the international film festival circuits. His film 881 grossed over S$3 millions, making it the top grossing Asian film in Singapore in 2007. In 2009, he was invited to be part of the Jury at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Eva Tang

Born in Singapore, Eva Tang has lived and studied in Hong Kong, London and China. When she was offered a scholarship from the Singapore Film Commission, she resigned from her journalist job of 5 years and went to study film. Tang was the first Singaporean filmmaker who had her student short selected by the Venice Film Festival in 2002.

Eva is a MA (Directing) graduate of the National Film and Television School. Her student film Londres – London won the Governor Award of the Akira Kurosawa Memorial Short Film Competition. It also won Best Artistic Film in Shanghai, Jury Recommendation at the Hong Kong Independent Short Film & Video Awards, and was nominated for Best Short Film at Hawaii and Bangkok International Film Festivals. The National Gallery of Art (USA) also picked it up for screening. Her film, Solitary Moon was awarded the First Prize at The Great Gatsby Video Challenge, part of the Singapore Arts Festival 2010.

Eva was selected for the 2009 Berlinale Talent Campus, 2010 Torino FilmLab training and 2010 Taipei Golden Horse Film Academy led by Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

Victric Thng

Cited as “one of the new wave directors to look out for” by The Straits Times, Victric Thng’s filmmaking career started when he made a 3-minute short film, Locust (2003). The film won the Renault Samsung Prize in the Busan Asian Short Film Festival, Best Asean Short Film Silver Award at the Malaysian Video Awards and also screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Locust remains one of the festivals’ most highly requested films today. He has since made 11 other short films including more recently, The Mole (2007), which won first prize at the Panasonic-MDA Digital Film Fiesta 2007, and Twogether (2007), which screened at the 27th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival in 2009. In 2009, he executive produced the short film series Infinity which premiered at the 22nd Singapore International Film Festival. He was commissioned by the National Arts Council in 2009 and 2010 to direct a film under the dance/film programme, as part of the Singapore Arts Festival. A Day Without Wind, which was the dance film commissioned in 2009, travelled to the Asian Hot Shots Festival 2010 in Berlin, Germany.

He has been invited to jury regionally at festivals including in Macau and in Singapore, the 7th Fly By Night Video Challenge 2009. In 2009, John Badalu in Jakarta curated a retrospective of his works.

Sembawang Taxi 2


All photographs courtesy of Royston Tan






Happiness comes with Sophie Marceau

6 12 2012

The Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous with French Cinema was very happily opened at The Cathay last evening by ever so gorgeous Sophie Marceau who lead a French cinematic delegation here for the film festival down the red carpet. Sophie, probably best known locally for her roles in Braveheart (1995) and in the James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough (1999), was there to open the 5 day film festival with her latest movie, Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un bonheur n’arrive jamais seul), in which she gives a delightful performance as a twice divorced mother of three.

The ever so gorgeous Sophie Marceau, known to local audiences for her roles in Braveheart (1995) and the James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough (1999) opened the film festival last evening.

The ever so gorgeous Sophie Marceau, known to local audiences for her roles in Braveheart (1995) and the James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough (1999) opened the film festival last evening.

Ms Marceau also spoke briefly at a media conference earlier in the day at Raffles Hotel, during which she likened cinema to an orchid. She mentioned recently learning that orchids required no earth to grow in just a support to present as a gift and for its beauty to be appreciated, and felt that the same could be said for cinema, requiring only a place for it to be seen and appreciated. Ms Marceau also added that she felt that Singapore, being a link between West and East, is the right place for that and for cinema to grow.

The red carpet laid in front of The Cathay for the opening.

The red carpet laid in front of The Cathay for the opening.

In taking questions, Ms Marceau revealed why the role in Happiness Never Comes Alone had appealed to her, one in which she portrays a successful woman, seemingly perfect on the outside but one with human frailties which is depicted rather humourously. The movie, she feels was one that through its depiction of two very different people falling in love, speaks very much about love and what it is about, about its struggles and the strength which the two people in love draw from each other. Asked, with reference to the character she plays in the movie who falls in love at first sight, on whether she believed in love at first sight, she replied that in love, everything is possible and that cinema is in fact inspired by reality.

Ms Marceau on the red carpet.

Ms Marceau on the red carpet.

On the subject of love, it will certainly not be hard to fall in love with French Cinema with what both Mr Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chairman, UNIFRANCE and Mr Olivier Gougeon, Regional Chief Executive Officer – Asia Pacific; who both spoke ahead of Ms Marceau at the media conference, described as the diverse selection of French films, on offer. The opening movie, which also made a South-East Asian debut, is certainly one to enjoy, and even with my reliance on English subtitles to follow the dialogue, a lot of the humour wasn’t lost which made the movie one that I thoroughly enjoyed sitting through. Happiness Never Comes Alone is one of thirteen films which will be shown through the festival which ends on 9 December 2012. Films will be screened at The Cathay Cineplexes and the Alliance Française Theatre (Children of Paradise / Les Enfants du Paradis will be screened at a Special Screening Venue, the National Museum of Singapore Cinemathique). Ticket are available at $12 each ($11 for Alliance Française de Singapour members for those screened at the Alliance Française Theatre. More information on the schedule can be found below and at the festival’s website (which will go live on 14 November 2012).

Ms Marceau with Mr Olivier Gougeon, Regional Chief Executive Officer – Asia Pacific; His Excellency Olivier Caron, the French Ambassador to Singapore; and Mr Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chairman, UNIFRANCE.

Ms Marceau with Mr Olivier Gougeon, Regional Chief Executive Officer – Asia Pacific; His Excellency Olivier Caron, the French Ambassador to Singapore; and Mr Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chairman, UNIFRANCE.

Ms Fleur-Lise Heuet (centre).

Ms Fleur-Lise Heuet (centre).


About Happiness Never Comes Alone

Happiness Never Comes Alone tells of a love story between two people who are made for each other despite having nothing in common. Sacha (Gad Elmaleh) is a talented jazz pianist who does not take life too seriously. He loves his friends, his piano and to party. At night, he plays in a jazz club and enjoys the company of the young women he meets. He lives for the moment, looking for pleasure, with no responsibility, no family, and no taxes. Sacha’s carefree life comes to a halt when he accidentally meets a forty-something career woman named Charlotte (Sophie Marceau) one rainy afternoon. Sacha soon discovers that Charlotte has three children, not to mention a jealous soon-to-be ex-husband who runs the multinational company they both work for. Sacha and Charlotte may appear to have nothing in common, but they somehow may just be made for each other.


About Sophie Marceau

Starting out in the movie industry at the young age of 14, Sophie Marceau achieved popularity with her debut films La Boum (1980) and La Boum 2 (1982). In 1983, she received a César Award for Most Promising Actress. She is known internationally for her roles in the movie Braveheart (1995) and the James Bond thriller, The World Is Not Enough (1999). With a string of film successes behind her, Sophie Marceau’s presence at the Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous With French Cinema signals the growing importance of Singapore and other Southeast Asian markets to the French cinema industry.


Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous with French Cinema Film Schedule

The Cathay

Wed 5 Dec 8:15 pm Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un Bonheur n’arrive jamais seul)
Thu 6 Dec 7:00 pm Armed Hands (Mains Armées)
Thu 6 Dec 9:30 pm Intouchables
Fri 7 Dec 7:00 pm Amour
Fri 7 Dec 9:15 pm The Other Son (Le Fils de l’Autre)
Fri 7 Dec 9:45 pm Gang Story
Sat 8 Dec 3:30 pm The Dandelions (Du Vent dans mes Mollets)
Sat 8 Dec 5:20 pm Day of the Crows (Le Jour des Corneilles)
Sat 8 Dec 7:40 pm My Lucky Star (Ma bonne étoile)
Sat 8 Dec 9:15 pm Rust and Bone
Sun 9 Dec 1:00 pm What’s In A Name (Le Prénom)
Sun 9 Dec 9:15 pm Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un Bonheur n’arrive jamais seul)
Sun 9 Dec 9:30 pm Elles

Alliance Française de Singapour

Thu 6 Dec 6:00 pm The Other Son (Le Fils de l’Autre)
Thu 6 Dec 9:00 pm Gang Story (Les Lyonnaise)
Fri 7 Dec 6:00 pm My Lucky Star (Ma bonne étoile)
Fri 7 Dec 8:45 pm Intouchables
Sat 8 Dec 1:00 pm The Day of the Crows (Le Jour des Corneilles)
Sat 8 Dec 3:45 pm Armed Hands (Mains Armées)
Sat 8 Dec 6:15 pm Amour
Sat 8 Dec 9:00 pm What’s In A Name (Le Prénom)


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Sophie Marceau comes to town

5 12 2012

Leading French actress Sophie Marceau seen at a media conference at Raffles Hotel this morning. She is here to lead a French artistic delegation to promote the French film industry and also to open the Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous with French Cinema this evening at which she will walk the red carpet. The 5 day festival opens with Ms Marceau’s latest film, Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un bonheur n’arrive jamais seul). More to follow … (see: Happiness Comes with Sophie Marceau)

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A second rendezvous

9 11 2012

Having been treated to a host of some wonderful French films at a first rendezvous with French Cinema last December, including the opening movie, the fabulous Michel Hazanavicius silent movie The Artist, which made waves at the Oscars, more treats await French cinema fans this year at a second rendezvous. The festival is back as the Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous With French Cinema which will run from 5 to 9 December 2012. A total of 12 films will be screened at two venues – The Cathay as well as the Alliance Française de Singapour.

Ms Linda Black opening the Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous with French Cinema’s press conference yesterday.

This year’s festival hopes to reach to a wider audience with something for people of all ages including a hand-drawn animated film aimed at younger audiences, Day of the Crows (Le jour des corneilles). The film, based on a novel, tells a tale of a boy who lives in the the forest, raised by a tyrannical giant of a father who prevents the son from exploring beyond limited boundaries. The film also features the voice of Jean Reno of Nikita (1990) fame. Other films that will be screened include the opening film, Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un bonheur n’arrive jamais seul), which makes a Southeast Asian debut. Directed by James Huth, Happiness Never Comes Alone stars the gorgeous Sophie Marceau in a love story between two people who as the trailer that was shown and the synopsis does suggest are made for each other because they have nothing in common. Sophie plays Charlotte, a twice divorced mother of three with a professional career who meets Sacha, played by Gad Elmaleh, a happy-go-lucky jazz pianist.

Sacha (Gad Elmaleh) meets Charlotte (Sophie Marceau) in Happiness Never Comes Alone.

Sophie who is well known for her roles in the movie Braveheart (1995) and the James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough (1999), will make her appearance in Singapore as part of this year’s cast of celebrities who will grace the event. The cinematic delegation which will be here to promote French cinema to local and regional audiences will include actors Christopher Lambert (of Highlander fame), Sophie’s better half; as well as Charles Berling, Fleur-Lise Heuet, Anne le Ny, Dimitri Storoge; directors Lorraine Lévy, Carine Tardieu and Jean-Christophe Dessaint; and producers Jérôme Seydoux and Marc-Antoine Robert. The delegation will also be accompanied by Unifrance Chairman, Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre as well as Sophie Seydoux of Fondation Pathé-Jérôme Seydoux.

Ms Black; His Excellency Olivier Caron, the French Ambassador to Singapore; Mr Olivier Gougeon, Regional Chief Executive Officer – Asia Pacific; and Ms Michelle Lim, Managing Director of Reed Exhibitions at the press conference.

Other films of note that will be screened are Untouchable (Intouchables) which does seem like one that should not be missed. France’s official selection for the foreign language film category at next year’s Oscars, Untouchable examines a friendship that develops between Philippe (François Cluzet), a wealthy quadraplegic and Driss (Omar Sy), a poor man hired as his live-in caregiver. The film which has been a hit grossing $355 million worldwide so far is directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. Another one that does seem to be worth watching is The Other Son (Le Fils de l’Autre), which has recently won an award at the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix at the 25th Tokyo Film Festival. The Other Son, directed by Lorraine Lévy, looks at two families, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, who find out that the sons they have raised had been exchanged at birth.

In Intouchables, Philippe played by François Cluzet, a wealthy quadraplegic develops a friendship with his caregiver Driss, played by Omar Sy.

The movie poster for Le Fils de L’Autre (The Other Son).

Other films that will be shown during the festival include Armed Hands (Mains Armées) directed by Pierre Jolivet; My Lucky Star (Ma bonne étoile) which stars Christopher Lambert and Fleur-Lise Heuet; Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os), directed by Jacques Audiard and starring Marion Cotillard; and What’s In A Name (Le Prénom), directed by Matthieu Delaporte and starring Charles Berling. In addition to the 12 films, a special screening of The Children of Paradise (Les enfants du paradis) will also take place at the National Museum of Singapore Cinematheque. The Children of Paradise is a French film classic from 1945, which has been preserved and digitally remastered by the Pathé-Jérôme Seydoux Foundation.

Christopher Lambert in My Lucky Star (Ma bonne étoile).

For a second year, the visiting delegation will also participate in Asia TV Forum & Market, Asia’s largest content market and a partner trade event of the festival. A feature this year will be a schools’ outreach programme during which masterclasses will be conducted for students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic School of Film & Media Studies and Tisch School of the Arts Asia. The masterclasses will be conducted by directors Lorraine Lévy, Carine Tardieu and Jean-Christophe Dessaint and will facilitate an exchange of knowledge and skills specific to French cinema. The festival will also offer members of the public hoping for a chance to meet some of the actors and directors that opportunity. Post screening sessions at the festival venues will be held which will allow audiences to interact with the actors and directors.


About Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous With French Cinema:

Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous With French Cinema is organised by Institut Français, Unifrance and Alliance Française de Singapour and sponsored by Societe Generale Private Banking. Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous With French Cinema also has the strong support of several other French businesses including luxury champagne house Perrier-Jouet as the Official Champagne, Air France as Official Airline, Angénieux as Official Film Industry Support, and Renault as Official Festival Car. Other sponsors include Raffles Hotel as Official Hotel and The Wall Street Journal as Official International Newspaper. The festival is organised with the support of the Embassy of France and the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), together with partners Asia TV Forum & Market, ScreenSingapore, MDA, TV5Monde and France 24. Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous With French Cinema is a part of Encore the European Season and Voilah! 2012.

Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous With French Cinema will run from 5 to 9 December 2012. Tickets will be priced at $12 and $11 for members of the Alliance Française de Singapour. The festival’s film schedule and advance online booking will be made available to the public from 14 November 2012. More ticketing and film programme details can be found at the festival’s website (which will go live on 14 November 2012).






The Gala Opening of the 1st Rendezvous With French Cinema

8 12 2011

The Cathay last night saw a crowd that had gathered to welcome the ever so lovely Carole Bouquet at a red carpet event – opening of the Societe Generale Private Banking 1st Rendezvous With French Cinema. Ms Bouquet, was there to open the six-day French film festival together with Mr Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chairman of uniFrance, the association responsible for the promotion of French Cinema internationally. Also gracing the event were members of a delegation of French film personalities which is in Singapore to promote the French film industry and will be presenting their films and taking questions from audiences at the Festival screenings.

Mr Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chairman of uniFrance with Ms Carole Bouquet.

At a press conference held before last evening’s Gala Opening during which was Ms Bouquet and members of the artistic delegation were introduced, Mr Clermont-Tonnerre, spoke of how uniFrance hopes to participate in more events such as this not just to increase the market share of French films in Singapore which is estimated add about only 1%, but also to increase cooperation between the French and local film industries as well as increase its distribution network. Also speaking at the conference was Ms Bouquet, who revealed that she had only just landed a few hours before. Ms Bouquet, who is well-known for her role in the 1981 James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only and as the face of fashion house Chanel in the 1980s, has over 40 films to her credit, added that she was happy to be in Singapore together with the delegation and to be the “godmother” of the 15 films which will showcase the diversity of French Cinema.

Ms Carole Bouquet with Mr Olivier Gougeon, Regional Chief Executive Officer – Asia Pacific, Societe Generale Private Banking.

For the festival’s title sponsor is Societe Generale Private Banking, bringing the festival to Singapore, is very much an extension of the sponsorship of the Cannes Film Festival by its Head Office. Its Regional Chief Executive Officer – Asia Pacific, Mr Olivier Gougeon, spoke of the French zeal for filmmaking which the organisation hopes to share by creating a first of its kind artistic, cultural and industry exchange. He also added that he hoped that this would not “just be a rendezvous with French Cinema, but a date”.

Stéphane Rybojad, Director, Forces spéciales (Special Forces) with Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Director, Elle s’appelait Sarah (Sarah’s Key).

Ismaël Ferroukhi, Director, Les hommes libres (Free Men) sharing a lighthearted moment with Mathieu Demy, Actor/Director, Americano.

Ms Bouquet speaking.

The crowd that attended the Gala Opening was treated to a brilliant opening movie, The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius – and an appearance on stage of Ms Bouquet and the delegation. The movie, a (largely) silent movie set in Hollywood between 1927 and 1931, looks at the decline of a male star as the silent movie era made way for the talkies and stars Jean Dujardin, one of France’s leading actors, who took the accolade of the Best Actor Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for his role in the film, alongside Bérénice Bejo. The festival will run from 8 to 13 December 2011 with tickets priced at $10 each. A list of films to be shown as well as a synopsis of each film can be found at this page (click here). More information on the festival, ticketing and schedule can be found at the festival’s website www.rendezvouswithfrenchcinema.sg.

The Gala Opening of the Societe Private Banking 1st Rendezvous with French Cinema was held at the Cathay.

Mr Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chairman of uniFrance with Ms Bouquet and the other members of the Artistic Delegation on stage at the opening of the Societe Private Banking 1st Rendezvous with French Cinema.

Mr Clermont-Tonnerre and the gorgeous Ms Bouquet.





Make a date with Carole Bouquet in Singapore this December

17 11 2011

A treat awaits fans of French Cinema in Singapore this December when a rendezvous, not just with film, but also with celebrities of French Cinema, takes place at the Societe Generale Private Banking 1st Rendezvous With French Cinema. Organised by Unifrance, Institut Français and Alliance Française de Singapour, the festival will showcase the best of contemporary French Cinema, and will see over 20 films being screened at GV Vivocity, Lido, Cathay, and the Alliance Française Theatre.

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo in 'The Artist', which will open the film festival.

The launch of the film festival, which will be held from 8 to 13 Dec 2011, was announced at a press conference yesterday. The conference, which was held at Societe Generale Private Banking’s offices in One Raffles Quay, was hosted by the model and TV personality Linda Black, who, together with a panel that made up of His Excellency Olivier Caron – the French Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Liew Choon Boon – Senior Director Industry and the Arts, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA), and Mr Olivier Gougeon – Regional CEO, Societe Generale Private Banking, provided details of the festival. H. E. Caron in his address, spoke of the festival, besides promoting French films to Asian audiences, also serving as a platform for networking and for collaboration between the French and Asian film industries. To facilitate this, the festival which is being launched in partnership with the Asian Television Forum (ATF), Asia’s leading content market with the ATF bringing in 12 sales agent companies from France. The Gala Opening of the festival will also see the launch of ATF 2011.

The gorgeous Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey in La fille du puisatier (The Well-Digger’s Daughter). The actress would be part of the artistic delegation that will be in Singapore for the festival.

To provide an appreciation of what will be on offer, trailers of selected movies that will be screened at the festival were shown at to the audience. This included what will be the opening movie of the festival, The Artist, a silent movie set in Hollywood between 1927 and 1931. The film is directed by Michel Hazanavicius and looks at the decline of a male star as the silent movie era made way for the talkies. The Artist stars Jean Dujardin, one of France’s leading actors, who took the accolade of the Best Actor Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for his role in the film.

The official festival trailer.

The festival will feature new film releases, some of which will be making their Asian premiere in Singapore. Amongst the films is a delightful one that is set in Provence around the time of the First World War, which I actually had the good fortune of watching on a flight back to Singapore very recently. The movie, The Well Digger’s Daughter, sees the directorial debut Daniel Auteuil, a celebrated French actor, in a remake of a 1940 Marcel Pagnol classic of the same title. Auteuil plays a well digger Pascal Amoretti in the movie which also sees the making of the very sweet Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as an actress playing Amoretti’s daughter, Patricia. A synopsis of the movie as well as that of the others that will be screened at the festival can be found at this link. Other films that are making their premiere include Special Forces by director Stéphane Rybojad, Point Blank directed by Fred Cavayé, A Happy Event directed by Rémi Bezançon and Free Men by director Ismaïl Ferroukhi.

Point Blank directed by Fred Cavayé will be one of several films that will have their Asian premiere in Singapore.

The festival programme will also see the visit to Singapore of an artistic delegation which Bergès-Frisbey, Cavayé, Rybojad, Bezançon and Ferroukhi will be a part of. The delegation would be led by Carole Bouquet, the leading lady of French Cinema, to whom homage is being paid to during the festival through a retrospective segment that features five of her films. Bouquet would be a familiar face to Bond fans here for her role in the 1981 James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only. The delegation would also include directors Mathieu Demy of Americano and Rithy Panh of Shiiku, as well as actor Pio Marmaï from A Happy Event and actress Ludivine Sagnier of Swimming Pool fame who acts in the film The Beloved. The audience will have a chance to meet and interact with the members of the delegation during post-screening sessions – something certainly to be excited about! Tickets will be priced at $10 each. A list of films to be shown as well as a synopsis of each film can be found at this page (click here). More information on the festival, ticketing and schedule can be found at the festival’s website www.rendezvouswithfrenchcinema.sg.

A scene from 'A Happy Event'.

Carole Bouquet.

All images courtesy of uniFrance.


Societe Generale Private Banking 1st Rendezvous With French Cinema is proudly sponsored by Societe Generale Private Banking as Title Sponsor, with Perrier-Jouet as Official Champagne, Swarovski as Official Fashion Sponsor, Air France as Official Airline, Renault as Official Car and Angénieux for Official Film Industry Support. It will be an event of Encore, the European Season and Voilah!. The festival will run from 8 to 13 December 2011. More details about the festival can be found at www.rendezvouswithfrenchcinema.sg.


Update on Artistic Delegation, 1 Dec 2011:

Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey and Ludivine Sagnier are unable to come down to Singapore for the festival. Gilles Parquet-Brenner would be coming instead.






Chasing the dragon

3 05 2011

(Liao Jiekai’s Red Dragonflies that is)!

I recently attended a special screening of Liao Jiekai’s celebrated Red Dragonflies, which starts a theatrical run at Filmgarde Iluma from 5 May 2011, during which an introduction was given by the Director himself and the two Co-Producers Tan Bee Thiam and Lyn-Anne Loy, who provided a little insight to the background and making of the low budget film. What was interesting to learn was that Liao, sees himself as a teacher rather than a filmmaker (he lectures at the School of the Arts), and considers filmmaking a hobby of sorts. That I guess frees him from the conventions of commercially driven filmmaking, and allowing him to focus on the expression of himself in the 96 minute movie. The movie is by no means one that can be described as entertaining, it is, as Tan mentioned, not a movie that is very watchable if it is entertainment that one is after, and the absence of much dialogue does make it a little heavy going at times.

Red Dragonflies, a film by Liao Jiekai that revolves around three teenagers' exploration of a disused railway line, with begin a theatrical run on 5 May 2011 at Filmgarde, Iluma.

The film does start off with giving the audience the sense that it would be painfully slow-moving. The opening scene brings in the main character, a young artist Rachel, who has returned to Singapore from New York. It is the scene that sets the tone for the rest of the movie, in which a lack of dialogue did is offset by the mood the scenes sought to convey. The next scene had Rachel walking by a old shop stepping into it and sitting on a chair, a primer perhaps for the theme of the movie which the following scene in which she visits her grandmother, does bring in. The scene in which past is juxtaposed with the present, centres on memories evoked by the familiarity of what was around her. In that laughter and the carefree days of Rachel childhood, seemed to be held in contrast with the almost melancholic silence of the present which Rachel finds herself in.

It wasn’t difficult for me to identify with the movie or its theme. A large part of the blog I maintain does touch on much of the same theme: a juxtaposition of past and present, and an attempt to reconcile the carefree days of a softer and very different Singapore that I interacted with in younger days with the cold modern it has become in my adulthood in which very little is left in which I can identify with. My relationship with my surroundings has in fact changed in a way that provokes a longing to go back to that world in which I had planted my roots in.

The juxtaposition of past and present is used to convey the contrasts in relationships and the strain that time and space may have had on them.

A significant part of the movie revolves around an attempt to rediscover the joys and the carefree days of youth, centring on the exploration of a disused railway track, a track that I have myself taken to discover in the present day to rekindle memories of a greener and rural Singapore that has long disappeared. We are taken through what has become for me scenes that are familiar as well as ones through a dense forested part of the old Jurong Railway Line that has been overtaken by nature. It is not so much in the scenes that bring the movie out, but in going back to the adventures of simpler days of youth, that a contrast is made with the a rediscovery of the past in the complication of living the present, as Rachel seeks to rediscover and rekindle relationships that have changed with once familiar faces and surroundings. Overall, it is a movie that will be appreciated for its expression and one that perhaps can be appreciated only for what it is and what it represents. It is a movie that captivated me throughout as I sought to discover the mystery behind each and every scene, and one that left me spellbound and intoxicated in a way that perhaps one that chasing the dragon would.


Synopsis

Rachel and her two friends explore an abandoned railway track that runs through a dense forest, but an unforeseen incident brings their little adventure to an abrupt end. Elsewhere, 26-year-old Rachel rekindles an old friendship with a high school friend. When a little boy from her past reappears, Rachel finds herself retracing a trail of iron and wood. Wistful and mysterious, the film depicts a world littered with incongruity, absences and traces of childhood dreams.

(from BAFICI programme notes)
A young artist goes back to Singapore from New York. She returns home, to old friends and familiar places. Not everything fits in. Memories and friendships are like roots but also like mysteries, and like such, they’re inexact, slippery, at times revealing, at times mere detours. Two teenage boys and a girl, all in their school uniforms, walk near a train track around an area of abundant vegetation; their gait is an exploratory one, charged with fears, amazements and new things (yes, there’s echoes of Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me) One of them gets lost. In that loss, and in the memories of a grown woman, there’s a sense of unease, a search, and the chance of meeting with the past and the people from it. A film of derivations with a subtle and singular sensibility, Liao Jiekai’s opera prima leads us to discuss the always hard to accomplish –even to mention– idea of cinema as poetry, which in this case is made of soft connections, juxtapositions, rhymes, and bars, that seem as free as necessary.

Awards:

Special Jury Prize, International Competition: Jeonju International Film Festival 2010
International Competition: Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Films 2010 (BAFICI)
FIPRESCI Competition: Hong Kong International Film Festival 2010
Winds of Asia Competition: Tokyo International Film Festival 2010
Göteborg International Film Festival 2011


Filmmaker Biography
Liao Jiekai is an award-winning filmmaker and artist based in Singapore. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lectures at the School of the Arts. His debut feature length film, Red Dragonflies won the Special Jury Prize at the Jeonju International Film Festival, especially noted for discovering independent filmmakers. The film was also selected for international competition in the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Films (BAFICI), Asia New Talent competition in the Shanghai International Film Festival and Winds of Asia-Arab Competition, Tokyo International Film Festival. Most recently, he is the contributing artist to Nedko Solakov’s The Flying Method of an Artist with a Fear of Flying at the Singapore Biennale 2011. He is a founding member of 13 Little Pictures and his active involvement in the Singapore film scene brought him credentials as producer and editor of several independent films.

About 13 Little Pictures
Driven by a love of cinema, 13 Little Pictures is a film collective bound by the spirit of collaboration and shared hope of creating films with unique directorial visions. Making films and friends at the same time, 13 Little Pictures works together in the belief that taking this journey together—challenging, inspiring, helping, and supporting each other—fosters a sense of community in our individual exploration of the possibilities of cinema. To date, 13 Little Pictures has made more than 15 feature and short films that have screened to international audiences in Rotterdam, Berlin, Vancouver, Tokyo, Bueno Aires, and more.


Red Dragonflies opens 5 May 2011 exclusively at Filmgarde Cineplex, Iluma. Tickets are available for online booking from today (3 Mat 2011).


[Photos and trailer courtesy of 13 Little Pictures]





A night when the stars shone

8 02 2011

The Seri Temasek 2011 Gala Night and Awards Ceremony (Malam Anugerah Seri Temasek 2011) was held at the Grand Ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore on Saturday. The event was held to honour artistes and personalities involved in the Malay Film industry, past and present, for their dedication and contributions to the Malay Film Industry and to the wider filmmaking industry in Malaysia and Singapore and was organised by Hanns Entertainment with the support of FINAS (Malaysia National Film Development) and Majlis Pusat Singapura, saw a gathering of the who’s who of filmmaking, both past and present, as well as a host of stars who set out to put glitter on a glitzy and glamourous occasion.

It was a night to remember for many at the Seri Temasek Gala Night which was held at the Fairmont Hotel on 5 Feb 2011.

Many got to get up close to some of the well known personalities behind the very successful Malay Film industry that was based in Singapore, including Jins Shamsudin (Singapore's James Bond - Jefri Zain, seen in a suit he wore from the era), and Kassim Masdor, composer and a great friend of the legendary P. Ramlee.

It was a night of glitz and glamour for many ....

Upcoming Malaysian Director, Producer and Actor, Syamsul Yusof with a fan.

The event was graced by some very pretty ladies as well ...

The event hosted by well known Singapore based A. B. Shaik and Malaysian based Ogy Ahmad Daud, featured performances by a host of stars that included divas, the ever effervescent Anita Sarawak, whose mother Siput Sarawak, was among the legends of the past that was honoured, and Ning Baizura. Also lending their voices to a thoroughly entertaining evening were R. Ismail, Rozita Rohaizad, the multi-talented Syamsul Yusof, Fredo of Flybaits, Didi Cazli, Sarah Aqilah, Rudy Djoharnean, and rocker Jatt Ali, who closed the evening. Guests for the event included Mayor of the Central Singapore District, Mr. Zainudin Nordin; Director General of FINAS, Mohd. Mahydin Mustakim; and Guest of Honour, Mdm. Halimah Yacob, MP for Jurong GRC.

A rare moment: Datuk Aziz Sattar adjusting the bow tie of Dato' Mustapha Maarof ...

Among the guests was Mayor of Singapore's Central District, Mr. Zainudin Nordin.

Guests and Committee members at the VVIP lounge. Mdm. Halima Yacob was the Guest of Honour.

The event was hosted by A. B. Shaik and Ogy Ahmad Daud.

Anita Sarawak was her ever effervescent self ...

Anita Sarawak.

Anita was, as ever, a hit with the crowds ...

Ning Baizura delivered a enjoyable number in her ever powerful voice ....

Ning Baizura.

Rudy Djoharnean.

The two divas Anita Sarawak and Ning Baizura with Anita's husband.

R. Ismail and Rozita Rohaizad.

Rozita Rohaizad.

Fredo of the Flybaits.

The gorgeous Sarah Aqilah.

Among the 32 honoured for their contributions were Anugerah Lagenda (Legendary Award) receipients P. Ramlee, Saloma, Saadiah Baharom and Siput Sarawak; Anugerah Gemilang (for Life Achievement) receipients Jins Shamsudin, Mustapha Maarof, and Aziz Sattar (who incidentally made an emotional visit to the studios at Jalan Ampas where it all began for him). Some names familiar with the Singapore scene that were honoured included Jack Neo (Anugerah Pencapaian – Achievement Award); Najip Ali (Anugerah Pencapaian) and Aaron Aziz (Anugerah Harapan).

Rocker Jatt Ali.

Aaron Aziz receiving his award.

Najip Ali on stage to receive his award.

Jack Neo with his award.





A meeting of past and present

4 02 2011

There was a time when Singapore might have been seen as the Hollywood of the region. That was when our tiny island had boasted of not one, but two highly successful studios in the form of the Shaw Malay Film Productions (MFP) at Jalan Ampas, and the Cathay Keris studios in the East Coast. During that time, over 300 films had been produced between the two studios over a golden age of filmmaking which spanned the end of the 1940s to the early 1960s. The success of the two studios had indeed been phenomenal, not just in producing movies which audiences gladly took too, but also in the development of talent and it was during this era that the career of the great P. Ramlee’s came to the fore. The industry saw a decline in the 1960s, due to the rapid changes in market forces that came with the introduction of television and also with the Indonesian Confrontation, and subsequently the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in the mid 1960s. It was with the latter that the industries on both sides of the Causeway developed very much on their own and it has only been now that we are seeing a renaissance of sorts in the industries on both sides.

The present meets the past .... from left to right: Datuk Aziz Sattar, Najip Ali, Dato' Mustapha Maarof, Jack Neo.

Singapore has in the last decade or so, seen a growing emphasis on developing and nurturing young talent. Filmmaking courses are now available at the polytechnics and at Nanyang Technological University. The setting up of the Singapore Film Commission which aims to promote the industry and to support the new and up coming filmmakers was a step in the right direction and all this has certainly paid dividends as we now see the emergence of young talents such as Royston Tan, and more recently, Boo Junfeng, whose feature Sandcastle became in 2010 the first Singapore film to premier at Cannes. Across the Causeway, the Malaysia National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) has spearheaded development from as far back as 1981. Set up with the aim to promote, maintain, and facilitate film production development in Malaysia. The last decade has also seen a revival in the fortunes of the filmmaking industry there and many young talents have emerged, including the award winning actor, director and producer Syamsul Yusof.

Award winning director, producer and actor, Syamsul Yusof, who would be performing at the Gala Event.

The time is perhaps right with the developments in filmmaking to attempt to bring the resources of the two sides together to combine the small pool of talent that is emerging and also to perhaps enable filmmakers of both sides to reach out to markets on the other side and perhaps to the wider region. This possibility was discussed during a dialogue session held in conjunction with the Seri Temasek Gala Event to be held at the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore on 5 Feb 2011. The Gala Event would feature an award presentation ceremony which will honour the legends of the silver screen from the golden age, as well as the personalities of today’s industry from both Malaysia and Singapore. In doing so, the main supporters of the event, FINAS and Majlis Pusat Singapura, aims to bring together the present and future of filmmaking with the past from both countries in an effort to promote cooperation between the two.

A dialogue session was held in conjunction with the Seri Temasek 2011 Awards.

During the dialogue session which featured local personalities Najip Ali and Jack Neo, as well as some of the greats of the golden era which included Dato’ Mustapha Maarof, Datuk Aziz Sattar, Nona Asiah and the Jerry Lewis of Malaya, Wahid Satay, this possibility was discussed and on the basis of the response of the speakers, there seems to be a strong possibility that further dialogue would be promoted. Among those in favour of this was Najip Ali who felt that it was important for the development of the two sides to foster cooperation and he felt that filmmakers in Singapore, lack a link to the history of its filmmaking which can be provided by the greats who are still very much involved in Malaysia.

Najip Ali and Jack Neo during the dialogue session. Jack was apparently Najip's officer during National Service.

Dato' Mustapha Maarof.

A representative from FINAS, Ms Siti Suhada, speaking during the dialogue session.

The Gala Event would feature performances by International Diva, Anita Sarawak, Ning Baizura, Fredo of Flybaits, Sarah Aqilah, Didi Cazli, Rudy Djoharnean, Syamsul Yusof, R. Ismail and Rozita Rohaizad. Hosts for the event are Ogy Ahmad Daud and A. B. Shaik. An exhibition on the history of Malay Film would also be held at the Fairmont Hotel on 5 Feb 2011 in conjunction with the event, which will be opened to the public (admission is free) from 1 to 5 pm.

Abdul Wahid bin Ahmad, who made an impression in his first role as a satay seller in the Cathay Keris produced Pontianak so much so that he came to be known by his stage name Wahid Satay. He started work with Cathay Keris as a set artist and later had audiences in stitches as a comedian and came also to be referred to as the Jerry Lewis of Malaya.

Nona Asiah, who started in the 1940s and performed alongside the legendary P. Ramlee, taking her leave.





Yesterday once more: The Green Hornet

31 01 2011

My first encounters with the masked superhero wannabe, the Green Hornet, and his trusty (and more able) sidekick Kato, had been during a re-run of the 1960s television series which starred Van Williams as the title character, and non other than the still popular Bruce Lee, as Kato and accompanied by a jazzed up version of The Flight of the Bumblebee. The re-runs that I could remember catching were screened over 1979 and 1980, on Tuesday evenings at 7, during a time when I was completing my secondary schooling, when I should really have been distracted by the preparations that I needed to make for the finishing examinations, then by the antics of the two masked men over half an hours of evening television, once a week before the Malay news came on.

There was actually a lot more to distract us during those days, despite the apparent lack of gadgetry and the wired-up world that keeps our young connected these days. It was exciting times brought about by gyrations inspired by the falsettos of Bee Gees and John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and with Michael Jackson going Off The Wall, amongst other things, as bell bottoms and butterfly collars gave way to pleated pants. It was a time when perhaps the childhood fascination with the superheroes in tights had waned to the extent that the die-cast Batmobile that I had held on to since I was five, with it’s paintwork chipped and damaged from the many occasions that it answered the call of duty in its many years of service it provided, went out with the trash (I now wish I had kept it). Despite that, the Green Hornet, when it remade an appearance, somehow drew us schoolboys to it. Perhaps it was it chance to watch the exploits of a Bruce Lee that had remained a cult hero to many of us, in a language that wasn’t alien to many of my friends, or perhaps it was it cool 1965 Chrysler Imperial known as the Black Beauty that caught our attention, but it had an effect on us that was similar to watching Erik Estrada in CHiPs, so much so that it often came up as a hot topic of conversation on the long bus journeys that we took to school.

I got to re-live my youth watching the Green Hornet courtesy of Domino's Pizza. I was an avid follower of the re-run of the television series screened on Tuesdays at 7pm in 1979 and 1980.

With that in mind, I approached a preview of the newly released remake of the Green Hornet in 3D, courtesy of Domino’s Pizza, with a bit of hesitation. This time around, the Green Hornet had at his disposal, not just a few clones of the Black Beauty, but with a garage full of cool automobiles that would have any one watching drooling, not that the female lead Cameron Diaz, who plays Lenore Case the secretary to the lead character, Britt Reid, a.k.a. the Green Hornet, wouldn’t. In this version, we do not just have the marvels of technology to keep our eyes glued to the screen, but also the silliness of Britt Reid’s character played by Seth Rogen and also of the bad guy, Chudnowsky (Christoph Waltz) who comes across as one who is as much as an narcissistic egomaniac as Britt Reid is, adding to the amusement. My favourite character in the 1960s television series, Kato, is played by the sullen Jay Chou, who somehow seems to mumble through some of his lines with good effect. Overall, watching it in 3D doesn’t seem to have made the experience any more spectacular, even with the generous dose of destruction that the audience is provided with, and I didn’t really think that Seth Rogen did justice to the character, but I guess audiences would still be drawn to the kick-the-bad-guy’s-ass theme, the car-chases to which Kato puts the accessories of the Black Beauty to good use, and the glass breaking and explosive sequences that is always popular with audiences. However, despite having reservations about Seth Rogen portrayal of of the masked Superhero wannabe and the lack of the spectacular, I must admit that not only I wasn’t disappointed with Green Hornet 3D, I did actually enjoy watching it as much as I did the television series.





Bringing the film industries of Malaysia and Singapore back together

29 12 2010

A press conference was held at the Holiday Villa, Subang Jaya on Tuesday to introduce the Seri Temasek 2011 Gala Event to media present from both sides of the Causeway. The event which aims to bring together members of the movie making industry on both sides of the Causeway in honour of the contributions made by eminent members of the industry, particularly those from the heyday of the Malay film making which had its humble beginnings in Singapore at the Jalan Ampas Shaw Malay Film Productions and also at the Cathay Keris Studios. It was at Jalan Ampas that the career of the legendary late Tan Sri Datuk Dr. P. Ramlee, as well as the careers of many other household names of Malay film were launched and awards would be given on the night to honour many connected with this.

Hanns Rawee and Dato' Mustapha Maarof having a look at the Seri Temasek award.

The press conference for Seri Temasek 2011 was held at Subang Jaya.

The event was mooted by parties from both Malaysia and Singapore, and has the support of FINAS (Malaysia National Film Development) in collaboration with Majlis Pusat Singapura and Hanns Entertainment. Among those present at the press conference were members of the Executive Committee, which includes Dato’ Mustapha Maarof, the Overall Advisor, who started his career as an actor and is the owner of Warna Motion Pictures; as well as Encik Zulkifli Mohammed, the Advisor from Majlis Pusat Singapura; Hans Rawee, the Chairman from Hann’s Entertainment; Nasir Aman, the Deputy Chairman from Majlis Pusat Singapura; Hj. Mohd Zulkifli Ab. Wahab, who is the Deputy Director, FINAS; and Senator Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Jins Shamsudin, who made his name as Malay Film’s very own James Bond, Jefri Zain in the 1960s and who had the good fortune of working with the great P. Ramlee. Among those in the audience during the press conference was the young award winning Director, Producer and Actor, Syamsul Yusof, who was named as Best Director at the 23rd Malaysian Film Festival in October for his film Evolusi KL Drift 2. Syamsul Yusof would be performing at the Gala Event, along with personalities such as International Diva, Anita Sarawak, Ning Baizura, Fredo of Flybaits, Sarah Aqilah, Didi Cazli, Rudy Djoharnean, Syamsul Yusof, R. Ismail and Rozita Rohaizad. Hosts for the event are Ogy Ahmad Daud and A. B. Shaik. Individual tickets for the night to be held at the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore are available at S$100 and include an 8 course dinner. For more information on the event, please click on this link. For information on sponsorship opportunities, please click on this link.

The Seri Temasek Award will be given to 35 individuals to recognise their contribution to Malay film.

Among those present was Senator Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Jins Shamsudin who worked with the great P. Ramlee.

Hj. Mohd Zulkifli Ab. Wahab Deputy Director, FINAS (Malaysia National Film Development).

Dato' Mustapha Maarof speaking to television reporters.

Mohd Yusof Ahmad (left) from Hann's Entertainment, and Datuk Aziz Sattar, the Programme Advisor.

Unveiling the Seri Temasek Award.

Among those present was award winning director, producer and actor, Syamsul Yusof, who would be performing at the Gala Event.


December 28, 2010 22:12 PM

Seri Temasek Awards To Honour Malaysia, Singapore’s Actors And Actresses

SUBANG JAYA, Dec 28 (Bernama) — The Malaysia National Film Development Corporation (Finas) with the cooperation of the Central Council of Malay Cultural Organisations Singapore and Hann’s Entertainment will be organising the Seri Temasek Award 2011 presentation to honour and recognise the contributions made by actors and actresses of the two neighbouring countries.

The award-presentation, to be held for the first time, will take place at Fairmont Hotel, Singapore on Feb 5.

Seri Temasek Award adviser Datuk Mustapha Ma’arof said it was aimed at promoting the continuity of the Malay film industry which had its beginnings in Singapore and also to remember the contributions of the Malay film legends, many of whom were born in the island republic.

“Many of the movie legends in Malaysia started their acting career in Singapore where they learnt a lot and entertained the people through the silver screen.

“This awards presentation is indeed closely related and is significant to the history of the Malay film industry, which was particularly active in the 1950′s until the 1960′s,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.

Also present were Finas deputy director-general Mohd Zulkifli Ab. Wahab, Singapore’s Central Council of Malay Cultural Organisations president Zulkifli Mohammed and director of Hann’s Entertainment, Hans Rawee.

Mustapha said 35 individuals would receive the awards in various categories, including the Anugerah Lagenda Seri Temasek, Anugerah Pencapaian Seri Temasek and Anugerah Khas Seri Temasek.

Meanwhile, Mohd Zulkifli said the holding of the awards presentation in Singapore was apt and in tandem with the government’s effort to enhance Malaysia-Singapore cooperation in various fields, including the film industry.

He said besides fostering closer relations between the two countries, it was hoped the event would also encourage Singaporeans to watch Malaysian films, hence promoting this country more effectively.

– BERNAMA






The Bridge over the River Kwai

22 12 2010

It might have been because of the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down”, that I have held a long fascination with bridges, having many doses of it throughout my early childhood. It was a fascination that was also fed by my regular encounters with the two railway bridges from my childhood journeys through the Bukit Timah area, and of those with the magnificent Anderson and Cavenagh Bridges that sets our Civic District apart from much of the rest of Singapore, and maybe by the picture of the red oxide coated Forth Rail Bridge on the back of a postcard that my mother had for much of my childhood displayed on her dresser. There were of course bridges of significance that I encountered in my diet of war inspired movies and novels that might also have fed that fascination: one being “A Bridge Too Far” over Arnhem that was the subject of Cornelius Ryan’s novel which was adapted by William Goldman for the movie of the same name; and the so-called “Bridge on the River Kwai”, part of the infamous Death Railway, that was made famous by the 1957 David Lean movie based on a novel entitled “Bridge Over the River Kwai” by French writer Pierre Boulle, which I had watched many times on TV.

Poster for the movie "Bridge on the River Kwai".

The bridge over the River Kwai in Dec 1984.

The bridge in 2006.

That I guess was what compelled me to visit the bridge that stands over the River Kwai today, or the River Mae Khlung as it should rightly have been (the river has since been renamed as the “Kwai Yai” for the tourists). The bridge that stands today isn’t the wooden bridge built in 1943 that was the subject of the movie, but a second more sturdy bridge of concrete and steel built by the Prisoners of War (POW) also in 1943. It stands as a powerful symbol of the pain, suffering and death that was inflicted on the POWs who were put to work on the infamous Siam to Burma rail supply line that the Japanese intended to use on their push towards India. Estimates vary but at least 100,000 POWs and labourers died in the construction of the railway due to the harsh conditions, starvation and malaria.

A view of the bridge from the far bank. The two straight-sided spans were transported from Japan after the end of the war as part of Japanese war reparations, to replace the two original arched spans which were brought over from Java by the Japanese which were destroyed.

Another view of the bridge.

Information plate on one of the replacement spans.

One of the original arched spans which the Japanese brought over from Java.

My first visit to the bridge which is about 5 kilometres out of Kanchanaburi , which is located 130 kilometres west of Bangkok was in December 1984 – back then I was struck by the surreal calm that taking a walk on the bridge provided despite the presence of the tourists (not the hordes that one encounters these days) and the vendors trying to hawk a few souvenirs. I did return some twenty years later – dismayed to find that the bridge had been overrun by hordes of tourists and the area now dominated by the tourist shops that have somehow destroyed the peace that I had first encountered in 1984. Still, taking a walk on the bridge provides a wonderful experience, and certainly once across the bridge, the far back does provide that sense of calm absent on the near side.

Taking a photograph of the bridge in 1984.

On the bridge in 2006.

Around the bridge, there is the River Kwae Bridge railway station which is certainly worth a visit. The station in fact provides an gateway for rail passengers coming from the south who can make a connection at Nakhon Pathom, and also directly from Bangkok. The line itself runs over part of the original Death Railway route to Nam Tok. The line which was assessed to be too poorly constructed to support commercial use was sold by the British in 1946 to Siam for a sum of ₤1.5M which included 65 locomotives, 1125 wagons and other stock, and revived in 1948. The train also runs through and stops at the town of Kanchanaburi.

Ticket counter at the River Kwai Bridge Station.

River Kwai Bridge Station.

An old steam locomotive (#719) on display at River Kwai Bridge Station.

Beyond the area where the bridge is, it makes sense to also pay a visit to one of the war museums to have a sense of what went on, as well as the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. The museum I visited was the JEATH (Japan, England, Australia Thailand, England) War Museum, which is housed inside the grounds of the Wat Chai Chumphon temple and is built around huts meant to replicate those that the POWs had been housed in and contains graphic images showing the conditions the prisoners had lived in.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in 1984.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.

Plaque at the entrance of the War Cemetery.

Plaque at the War Cemetery.

The JEATH War Museum.

Exhibit at the JEATH War Museum in 1984 with photographs of the bridge destroyed in 1945 by allied bombings.





Bringing back the Golden Age of Singapore’s Movie Industry

12 12 2010

On 5 February 2011, stars and those who gave Singapore a Golden Age in movie making, will be making a homecoming, coming together with a host of stars and prominent persons involved in the film and entertainment industry of today in a Gala Event, Seri Temasek 2011.

The event which is being organised for the first time, will also bring together ministers, diplomats, entrepreneurs, business leaders and movie directors from both sides of the Causeway, in a tribute to the legendary and extraordinary P. Ramlee, who lighted up the entertainment scene during the Golden Age, as well as many more household names and those behind the scenes of the Golden Era of Malay Film-making. The highlights of the event would be an award ceremony in which many of those involved in bringing us the Golden Age would be honoured and the host of the stars of today who would be performing on stage.

Among the stars that would be entertaining the audience would be our very own International Diva, none other than the ever effervescent Anita Sarawak, who is herself, the daughter of one of the greats of the Golden Age, Siput Sarawak, as well as the likes of Sarah Aqilah, Didi Cazli and many more.

The event is a collaborative effort of Majlis Pusat Singapura and Hann’s Entertainment, and has the support of FINAS (Malaysia National Film Development). Besides the promotion of Malay film, the event also aims to forge links between interested parties across the wider film making industry in Singapore and Malaysia with invitations being sent to other prominent directors and producers.

The event team in bringing Seri Temasek 2011 to us has also the opportunity to work with an advisor, an expert and a popular figure in the Malay Film industry in Malaysia and Singapore, Dato’ Mustapha Maarof, who has been pivotal in the conceptualisation of the set up for the event.

Dato' Mustapha Maarof with his excellent credentials is a valuable advisor to the organising team for Seri Temasek 2011.

For the public, tickets are available for the event from the organisers. The event which will be held at the Fairmont Hotel, will include an 8 course dinner. The organisers are also offering premium tables, which will be going at S$5000. The tables will be hosted by special guests from Malaysia and Singapore, is close to the stage area, and besides being up close and personal to the stars on stage, would also offer the opportunity to guests at the tables to mingle and have photographs taken with the artistes of the past and present.

Corporations that purchase premium S$5000 tables would also be provided with an opportunity to have a one page advertisement placed in the souvenir magazine which will have a readership reach of 40,000 in Singapore and Malaysia.

The setting for Seri Temasek 2011, the Grand Ballroom at the Fairmont.

The organisers are also extending opportunities for direct corporate sponsorship of the event. As a sponsor, corporations can not only build enterprise relationships within the 850 guests-in-attendance, but also have access to other sponsors, diplomats and entrepreneurs of Singapore and Malaysia through a private cocktail party and be provided with a opportunity to showcase the corporation’s products and services at a Gallery showcase at the event hall with a booth space measuring 3 metres by 1 metre. For sponsorship matters, please contact Mr Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman at 98604508 or by email.


A Note From Seri Temasek Committee

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation for all the support and encouragement given to organise and manage this momentous event Seri Temasek Gala Dinner 2011, to be the first and one of its kind in Singapore.

Seri Temasek is conceptualised and organised with a main reason to credit film makers, actors/actresses, scriptwriters and star performers for their dedication and perseverance from the Golden era till today. The success stories and achievements of the late P Ramlee is the main motivator that led to the birth of this event, as we appreciate and honour the commitment of today’s artists that have attained great achievements in the film and entertainment industry.

We would also like to record a special thank to Cathay Keris and Shaw Brothers as organisations that have created opportunities and the ground to develop, nurture and grow talents since 1930s. It is with their support, Malay professional actors/actresses, singers and star performers such as the famous legendary Tan Sri Datuk Dr P.Ramlee, Biduanita Saloma, Jamil Sulong, Datuk Aziz Sattar, Dato’ Mustapha Maarof, Senator Datuk Tan Sri Dr Jins Shamsudin, S. Samsudin and many more whose names have been etched in the hearts of many.

In the 6-months of the planning for Seri Temasek, the team had stumbled upon many obstacles. It was truly a challenging experience. However, with the stewardship of Dato’ Mustapha Maarof as our advisor, we are able to withstand the challenges and surge ahead with confidence. We believe that the event will definitely take on a magnificent setting.

Seri Temasek, the first of its kind offers a unique disposition to sponsors. The event will be an annual event as a key platform, to motivate, commemorate and honour the works of artists, star performers and film activists in their strive to plug the Malay film industry into the global grid. This will be key platform to strengthen the relations of the two countries, expanding the outreach further.

It is on this note, we seek your greatest support and generosity to participate in this event as a sponsor and leverage on the many opportunities that the event can offer.

With this, we thank you in advance for your kind support. The event will be made successful. And together with you, we set the stage for Anugerah Seri Temasek 2011!

Thank you.






Remembering the legendary P. Ramlee

4 12 2010

It might have come as a surprise to some to learn from an article in the Straits Times on 20 November this year, that the legendary, charismatic, multi-talented and much revered producer, actor, singer and songwriter, P. Ramlee, whose career spanned much of the golden age of Malay film making from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, died lonely and penniless. His untimely death at the age of 44 in 1973 had as I very well remember, brought an outpouring of grief from his fans on both sides of the causeway. I had remembered that moment when the news broke very vividly as my maternal grandmother, herself a huge fan of P. Ramlee, shed a few tears. She had, in her relatively solitude after my grandfather’s own passing at the end of the 1960s, being conversant only in Bahasa Indonesia, counted the performances of P. Ramlee which she followed whenever it was aired on Television Singapore, as as one of her main sources of amusement.

Coincidentally the article, which featured Shuhaimi Baba’s documentary about the life of P. Ramlee, was published soon after a visit I paid to No. 8 Jalan Ampas, where P. Ramlee had his best moments, rising quickly from a young and aspiring actor to become an award winning movie producer and director, being responsible for over 70 films and 200 songs at what was the very successful Malay Film Productions (MFP) studios. He left the studios in 1963 to join Merdeka Studios in Kuala Lumpur, a year where two events might very well have led to the end of the the golden age of the Malay film industry which besides the MFP also counted the likes of the Cathay Keris studios. The events were the introduction of television in Malaya, and the merger of Singapore with Malaysia (which resulted in Indonesia’s objections developing into Konfrontasi, thereby closing the huge Indonesian market).

No. 8 Jalan Ampas, the premises of the former MFP as it is today. The MFP thrived during the Golden Age of Malay film and was where the legendary P. Ramlee's career took off.

A modest memorial to P. Ramlee at the former MFP at No. 8 Jalan Ampas.

While his premature passing had robbed us of his wonderful talent, which sadly in his final years he wasn’t able to fully exploit due to the unfortunate change of circumstances, P. Ramlee has certainly left us with his rich legacy of films and music – one that certainly deserves to be commemorated in a grand way. It is a wonderful thing that it is indeed going to be in a gala event to be held in Singapore on 5 February 2011, an event that will bring together artistes from that bygone era, together with guests from both sides of the Causeway who will include Ministers such as Datuk Rais Yatim and Chief Minister of Sarawak, Diplomats, Entrepreneurs, Film Producers, Scriptwriters, Movie Lovers and Fans of the Malay Film and Entertainment. The hosts for the exciting evening will be Ogy Ahmad Daud and A. B. Shaik and the Gala Night will feature performances by artistes of today and yesterday which will include the likes of diva Anita Sarawak, as well as by Ning Baizura, Fredo of Flybaits, Sarah Aqilah, Didi Cazli, Rudy Djoharnean, Syamsul Yusof, R. Ismail and Rozita Rohaizad. Please scroll down for an overview of the event. More details will soon follow.

P. Ramlee in his premature passing, had left a wealth of works, including the last song he composed, Air Mata di Kuala Lumpur, which was composed six months before his death. The song was first presented to the public by P. Ramlee's widow Saloma at the National Musuem in Kuala Lumpur on 29 August 1973.


Event Overview:

Seri Temasek Gala Dinner is the first to be held in Singapore to commemorate films from the Golden Era. Artists from the 1940s will be honoured for their works and contribution to the film industry.

It was during the Golden Era, a famous Malay entertainer created a name in Singapore. From the Jalan Ampas studio, P. Ramlee (b. 22 March 1929, Penang- d.29 May 1973) was the quintessential Malay entertainer par excellence – actor, director, composer and singer. He accomplished the heights of a legend, with a remarkable track record of having acted in 65 films and sung 390 songs. Closely linked to the golden era of Malay movies, P. Ramlee is the one and only brand name in the Malay Film industry in Golden Era and undeniably, an icon in the Malay entertainment scene in Malaysia and Singapore.

The legend’s influence on Malay popular culture is undeniable. Today, P. Ramlee’s films and songs continue to be enjoyed by many. His films and music have been adopted by succeeding generations. Many expressions in popular Malay culture either originate or were popularised by the late P. Ramlee, with lines from his films still being quoted today.

In memory of the legend’s fine artistry works, Seri Temasek serves as the first and only platform in Singapore to bring together artists / star performers / film producers / scriptwriters from Singapore and Malaysia to honour their contributions in the arts, culture and film industry. They will unite in an opulent nostalgic setting that sets to enliven the spirit of the Golden Era and to motivate the younger generation to scale to greater heights.

This is the event and the only platform that sets, records and heightens the memorable scenes and fine works of the past and present, motivating the works of yesterday and today bringing the Malay film industry into the global scene.

The starring night of Seri Temasek 2011 will witness 32 artists honoured for their dedication and contributions to the Malay Film Industry with Seri Temasek and Seri Temasek Life Achievement Awards.

850 honourable guests from various elite backgrounds Singapore and Malaysia alike, Ministers, Diplomats, Entrepreneurs, Film Producers, Scriptwriters, Movie Lovers and Fans of the Malay Film and Entertainment industry will rejoice in the first and only Seri Temasek 2011.

The first esteemed and memorable event to be held in Singapore; will create another milestone in the history of arts, culture and film here as it celebrates success stories of the past and present.






Where legends of the silver screen had once set foot on: No. 8 Jalan Ampas

11 11 2010

It may not be a surprise to some that the legendary Malaysian actor, singer, songwriter and director, P. Ramlee had actually plied his trade and made his mark on the silver screen from a studio that was located in Singapore, the Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Productions (MFP). However, it may surprise some that a few of the buildings that were associated with the studio still stand, albeit somewhat obscurely and forgotten and dwarfed by the many commercial and residential developments that now surround its compound at No. 8 Jalan Ampas, off Balestier Road in Singapore.

Lying somewhat hidden amongst commercial and residential properties is the former Shaw Brothers' Studio at Jalan Ampas.

It was back in the late 1940s, the 1950s and the early 1960s, that the studios at No. 8 had its best days, rising to become the most successful Malay film production house of the time. It was also during that time when as a young and aspiring actor at the studios, P. Ramlee, not only made his mark as an actor and a singer and songwriter, but also very quickly as an award winning movie producer and director. P. Ramlee was responsible for over 70 films and 200 songs before his departure for the Merdeka Studios in Kuala Lumpur in 1963. P. Ramlee was of course, well known to me in my childhood, having been given many doses of his exploits in black and white whilst seated next to my maternal grandmother in front of the Setron console television.

A nondescript gate leads to hallowed grounds on which the legendary P. Ramlee had once ruled the studios.

Somehow 1963 had been a very eventful year in Singapore, not just because of P. Ramlee moving to Kuala Lumpur, but it was more importantly, the year in which Malaysia was formed, made by the merger of Singapore and the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak into what had been the Federation of Malayan States. More significantly for the MFP though, it was a year which saw the introduction of television in Singapore, and while it certainly benefited my grandmother who was able to obtain the diet she craved of P. Ramlee and Pontianak movies in the comfort and safety of the living room of our flat, it also led to competition for the Malay speaking audience for the film making industry in Singapore, which besides Shaw Brothers, also featured another prominent film studio, Cathay Keris. Ultimately, this, together with a ban imposed on Malaysian productions by Soekarno’s Indonesia during the Konfrontasi (Confrontation), led to a falling demand and the eventual demise of the hitherto very successful Malay film making industry. The MFP, unable to sustain itself in this climate, eventually closed its doors in 1967.

A peek through the gates into a world that might have once been where dreams were made ...

While many of the events had either been before my time, or had passed me by in the bliss of my childhood, I did have some of my own memories of the MFP after its closure. What I would remember most is the view I regularly got of it in passing-by, from the back seat of my father’s car on the many occasions through the late 1960s and during the 1970s that I passed it on my visits to my paternal grandfather (who lived in the area). I had by that time been very aware of the MFP’s role in providing my maternal grandmother with the endless hours of entertainment which probably kept her sane through some of the lonely moments she had living in the confines of our HDB flat. I would in passing-by often look at what I remember as a desolate looking whitewashed walled compound which had a sign that must have read “Malay Film Productions” for me to have been able to have identified it then. I had also, in passing-by, often tried to picture what it would have been like in the days when the career of the legendary P. Ramlee flourished in the studios, wishing sometimes to have an opportunity to see and explore the place, which I never did get to. In time, with the passing of my grandfather the late 1970s giving me no reason to pass by the studios, it had been somewhat forgotten by me.

To the memory of a legend. A modest memorial to the late great P. Ramlee at the former MFP.

The memories of the studios did come back to me only recently, when I, in recalling the comical antics of Mat Bond (which was produced by the rival Cathay Keris studios), also remembered our very own more Bond like Jefri Zain, played by Jins Shamsudin, which was made at MFP, and the MFP along with it. I had intended for some time, to take a walk of rediscovery in the area where the MFP was (I wasn’t even sure if it was still around), which I somehow never go to doing. It was by sheer coincidence, a group involved in this concept of Urban Exploration, which I was only very recently introduced to, the One° North Explorers, obtained permission to visit the former studios and were kind enough to extend an invitation to me (see One° North Explorers’ post about the exploration of the studios) – an invitation at which I was quick to jump at. It wasn’t for me, so much a walk down memory lane, as I am often inclined to do, as it was to satisfy that unfulfilled childhood desire to see and explore the hallowed grounds that my grandmother’s silver screen hero, P. Ramlee, had once trodden upon.

Where the more serious of the two local Bond like characters, not Mat Bond, but Jefri Zain, was created.

There isn’t really a lot to remind us of the past use of the abandoned buildings which stand silently and forgotten in the compound at No. 8 Jalan Ampas. For one, they are well hidden behind a nondescript gate that one might only notice because of the two misspelt signs that might convince vehicle owners not to park there. There is however, an easily missed marker that does stand just by the gates, which does tell of the forgotten past and of the fact that it wasn’t just local legends whose feet had once trodden on the grounds, but also the feet of hallowed legends of Hollywood, including John Wayne and Ava Gardner. Beyond this, there is perhaps only the faded Shaw Brothers (SB) logo at the top of one of the buildings that gives away a clue to its past.

Information on the Shaw MFP Studio on the marker at No. 8 Jalan Ampas.

A scene from the filming of the last movie to be made at the studios in 1967, Raja Berslong.

I guess I would have been disappointed if I had expected to find much that would have connected the buildings with their glorious past, with most of what had equipped the rooms within the buildings disposed off in the 1970s. However, being there just for the opportunity to satisfy that desire to see and explore, I was quite happy to discover there were indeed some little reminders, this despite most of the equipment there having been moved out, and also the four decades of relative neglect. Within buildings that are still in relatively good condition, beyond the external walls that exhibit some of the ravages of weather and time, were rooms illuminated by the soft glow of light filtered through frosted and textured window panes which did hold a few things that connected the buildings with its past: contraptions that might have perhaps been old film dryers, old reels, posters and photographs that would have been used in promoting movies produced or distributed by the studios … Although that wasn’t really enough to go on to allow me to have a feel of what the buildings might had once been like when perhaps it was the Hollywood of South East Asia, it did not leave me the least disappointed, for at last, some three and a half decades since I last set my eyes on the old buildings behind the wall, I got the chance I had longed for – to have a look around the grounds where the great P. Ramlee had once trodden upon. And, for some reason beyond my comprehension, it felt as if I was home again.

The visit to the former MFP offered me a chance to see and explore the hallowed grounds that I had previously only had a peek at ...

Reminders of a forgotten past ...

Much of the former MFP although worn by the weather and time from four decades of neglect is still in relatively good condition.

The SB logo on top of the building ...

Reminders of the past ...

Evidence of a forgotten time when the MFP ruled the silver screen.

More evidence of the glorious past ...

The Directors' Rooms ... one had been where P. Ramlee had worked from ...

Perhaps Room A?

Some of the current residents of the prestigious address ...

Except for the weather worn walls and a few broken panes of glass ... the studios seemed to have aged pretty well.

A record book ...

A few more scenes from the MFP …





Taking off with the Legends of Flight

4 11 2010

Anyone with an interest in aircraft may appreciate the iMax 3D movie currently being screened at the Omnitheatre. The movie which produced by Canada based Stephen Low, and executive produced by K2 Communications Inc, traces the evolution of flying machines, pausing at some of the more revolutionary moments in the century and a little more of powered human flight, from powered bi-planes to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

While we may be led to imagine that the movie takes a neutral look at the so called legends that have transformed flying machines, the fact that the audience is in fact navigated through the movie by what many would consider a living legend of flight himself, Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot, Mike Carriker, the movie is in effect a promotional video for the Dreamliner. Carriker takes us through many of the considerations taken in the development of the Dreamliner, manoeuvring through conceptual thoughts, mock-ups of Board Room meetings in which Carriker is seen as a key driver of many of the decisions that were taken, to the production shop and test rigs, glossing over many of the problems that were responsible for a two and a half year delay in the programme which took six years from conception to the first test flight. In all this, the legendary aircraft that are featured have minimum screen time, with much of the attention given to the development of what Boeing and Carriker describes as an aircraft so revolutionary that future generations of it would flying some 100 years from now.

The aircraft featured in the movie as seen on the movie poster.

That the Dreamline is a revolution, there is no doubt. Much of the motivation for developing the aircraft was to regain Boeing’s market leadership which was threatened by Airbus’ launch of the Airbus 380 which in exploiting the economy that is associated with scale in arriving a what was, from a fuel economy viewpoint, the most efficient commercial jetliner ever developed. In doing so, as we are shown in the movie, Boeing was determined not just to match the fuel economy of the Airbus 380 with a smaller aircraft for which they felt there would be a greater demand for, but one that will be the benchmark of the future of aircraft. To achieve that vision, many of the legends of flight were looked at from a perspective of what had made them the revolutions of their time. The lessons we have from Nature were also taken on board the many considerations made (Carriker admits that much is still a mystery – and that is what makes it beautiful), with the Albatross which is described as the most perfect flying machine, one that is able to sustain flight for a great length of time with its highly efficient long thin wings, being the inspiration for the wing design. The legends that are featured also include the first powered flight in the form of a piston engine driven bi-plane, the piston engine powered Lockheed Constellation, the Schleicher Glider, the Harrier VSTOL Jet, and the Airbus 380.

The Harrier is cited as one of the legends - its VSTOL capability showing that sheer power and not just aerodynamics alone can be relied on put an object in the air.

In the design of the wings of the Dreamliner, the thin long wings could only be achieved by the extensive use of some of the advanced materials available to us today, primarily carbon-fibre composites, which allows lightweight high modulus fibrous material to be aligned in directions where strength is needed, much like the lightweight materials which were used in the very first sail planes where extensive use was made of lightweight wood and sail material. While carbon-fibre composites is used extensively in military jets to optimise their weight, the extensive use of the new age material in the Dreamliner is in fact a revolution in itself, with the aircraft being the first commercial jetliner to exploit the material fully – aided in part by the leaps and bounds in computing power that now allows extensive and exhaustive analysis to be carried out on a composite structure. The introduction of carbon-fibre composites, we were to find out later, was not without its problems – an unpredicted weakness at the joint of the wing root to the fuselage that only came to light during static tests resulted in a long delay in which titanium brackets had to be retrofitted to the first six units on the shop floor.

The movie does come with stunning 3D effects – one particular scene that is animated takes you on a ride over the rockies with a Schleicher Glider is especially spectacular, and all in all the flow of the movie makes it not just educational, but also quite entertaining with its thrilling virtual flight sequences, something that is well worth making a trip down to the Omnitheatre for. The movie made its debut at the Omnitheatre on 2 November 2010 in a grand premier that was graced by Mrs Lim Hwee Hwa, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, and Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for Transport.


About the Legends of Flight:

Directed by Stephen Low, produced by Pietro L. Serapiglia, and executive produced by K2Communications, Inc. in association with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Legends of Flight brings the excitement of air travel to the giant screen through the eyes and experience of The Boeing Company’s Chief Test Pilot Mike Carriker.

Flight-rated in more than 100 aircraft types, Carriker, one of the world’s top test pilots, is the audience guide, interpreter, flight instructor and amiable companion. With him, viewers will enjoy the serenity of soaring through majestic mountain peaks and then feel the sheer exhilaration of a Harrier Jump Jet as it leaps into the sky and rockets to tactical speed. Virtual flights in classic airplanes of the past give way to the film’s highpoint; the drama of being aboard for the world’s most anticipated commercial aircraft’s maiden flight, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Beyond the technical marvel that is IMAX photography – where advanced cameras and technologies add to the superb storytelling abilities of large format cinema – is the film’s innovative use of SANDDE animation. Developed by IMAX co-founder Roman Kroitor, the Stereoscopic Animation Drawing Device (SANDDE) enables Carriker to literally draw in space, allowing the audience to see technical explanations as they appear on the screen and move as an overlay in real time.

In production for more than three years, Legends of Flight will premiere in late spring 2010 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC., followed
by premiere showings in Seattle and Chicago. The film will then begin an international exhibition schedule.

The Stephen Low Company, based in Quebec, Canada specializes in films for the Giant Screen cinema. K2Communications, Inc. serves as Executive Producer and is a leader in
the Giant Screen industry. K2’s extensive IMAX format film library is available internationally. Legends of Flight is the third film collaboration between acclaimed IMAX director Stephen Low and K2. Prior work includes Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag and The Ultimate Wave Tahiti, set to premiere globally in February 2010. A fourth film collaboration – Rescue – is under way.






Time for romance in a sword-fight: Reign of Assassins

4 10 2010

Having lived through the era of the One Armed Swordsman in the late 1960s and early 1970s which spawned the many neighbourhood wannabes swinging a paper swords that must have been picked up whenever the wayang came around, with one arm tucked behind their backs, I have always taken a rather comical view of Sword Fighting movies – giving them a miss whenever one was screened at the cinemas or on television. So, with the recent release of the latest addition to the genre, the “Reign of Assassins”, it have probably been one that I would certainly have given a miss to as well – if not for the opportunity that presented itself during an exclusive preview of the movie at GV Plaza on Friday – not so much for the free movie pass and popcorn, but to catch the highly acclaimed producer and director John Woo in person.

John Woo made an appearance together with Director Su Chao-Pin at GV Plaza on Friday to interact with the audience.

The screening of the movie was preceded by a session during which the audience were given an opportunity to interact with Woo who was the Producer for the movie in which he was also the Co-Director, and the Director, Su Chao-Pin from Taiwan. The Sword-Fighting and Martial Arts movie, set in the Ming Dynasty, besides featuring an international production team, also features an international cast which includes leads Michelle Yeoh who plays the heroine Zeng Jing and Korean actor Jung Woo Sung who plays hero Jiang Ahsheng, as well as the likes of Taiwanese actress Barbie Hsu who plays an Assassin, Turquoise.

The Sword Fighting movie Reign of Assassins which features an international cast that includes Michelle Yeoh, Jung Woo Sung and Barbie Hsu, opens in cinemas in Singapore on 7 October 2010.

Woo, who represents the pinnacle in Asian film direction, mentioned how fruitful and enjoyable the 16 years in Hollywood were for him where he directed the likes of Face/Off and Mission Impossible II. During the session, he revealed that it was time for him to return to Asian cinema to bring to Asia what he had learnt in Hollywood to enable him to share it with young Asian directors. He described working in Hollywood as a dream, and made particular mention of working with Michael Douglas whom he said gave him a lot of creative freedom. He also said that he had during his time in Hollywood had the chance to meet some of his idols who include the likes of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Cuppola with whom he is now good friends with.

John Woo described his 16 years in Hollywood as a dream.

It was also during the session that both Woo and Su revealed that what sets the movie apart from the typical movie from the Sword Fighting genre of its heyday some 30 to 40 years ago were that they wanted to also portray the human aspects of the sword fighters – giving each of the characters an ordinary life in which they went about their daily lives in very much the same way most folk do. In doing so, Su mentioned that he wanted the audience to see that there was indeed a human and emotional side to the characters, and that while time and circumstances have changed, people back then were very much like people are today. In previous Sword Fighting movies, for the sake of keeping the movie moving, most had their characters employing their skills throughout the movie, leaving very little or no time for the characters to display a human that would certainly have existed.

Su Chao-Pin describing how emotions were examined as part of the effort to portray the human side of the characters in the movie.

Watching the movie after the sharing session, I guess I was able to appreciate this fact. The treatment of the human aspects of the characters was indeed expertly handled, with just about the right mix of action and suspense, emotions and even a little tinge of humour mixed in, that I was able to sit riveted to the screen throughout the length of the two hour long movie, even as I felt that the story was a little predictable at the beginning – that is, until the main antagonist’s motivation was revealed in a comical moment.

The human aspects of the lives of the Sword Fighters were very much in evidence throughout the movie.

Another thing that came out during the session was a discussion about how difficult it was to work with an international cast. During the discussion, Su made particular mention of his experience working with Jung who did not speak a word of Mandarin. Jung he felt was very professional in how he went about playing the role, painstakingly memorising every single line even though the voice of his character was to be dubbed over. That effort perhaps showed in the movie where Jung’s performance was quite convincing. Overall the movie did not disappoint – perhaps because I did not expect much in the first place, but I did feel that for someone like me who really isn’t taken by the action sequences of a Sword Fighting movie, it did offer something more than that and perhaps provided me with an appreciation for such movies that I had not previously had. The movie opens in cinemas in Singapore on 7 October 2010.


Synopsis:

Set in ancient China, the film stars Michelle Yeoh as a skilled assassin who is on a mission to return the remains of a mystical Buddhist monk to their resting place. The remains are believed to hold a powerful secret. Along the way, she falls in love with a man named Jiang, whose father was killed by her gang. Unaware that he also is a trained martial artist, their love blossoms but tensions arise as the truth of her past unravels. Soon, a lethal triangle surfaces between her, Jiang and the team of assassins that are after the monk’s remains.





Love Cuts … a preview

8 09 2010

I managed to catch a “blog aloud” preview of the much anticipated local movie “Love Cuts”, produced by Clover Films, over the weekend, which was followed by a sharing session with scriptwirters Danny Yeo an Lee Shyh-Jih and breast cancer survivor, Shirley Au Yeung. The movie which come to the screens tomorrow (9 September 2010), stars local favourite Zoe Tay alongside Hong Kong actor Kenny Ho, Ipoh lass, Christy Yow, and Chinese American hunk Allan Wu, together with a host of local talents, some familiar and some less so. The launch of the movie, which had been produced in conjunction with the Health Promotion Board with the aim to raise awareness of Breast Cancer and the prevention of Breast Cancer, had been accompanied by much hype surrounding Zoe Tay’s baring of skin and what the press across the causeway had labelled as Christy Yow’s “southern exposure”.  While that may be an attraction in itself, that should not take the attention away from what is a excellent film with a story line that attempts to broach what can be considered to be a difficult subject to address in the local context where pain, suffering and death, particularly of the heroine that in another context, can sometimes not be well received.

From left to right: Danny Yeo (scriptwirter), Shirley Au Yeung (breast cancer survivor), and Lee Shyh-Jih (scriptwriter) during the sharing session after the preview, sharing insights on the screenplay and Shirley sharing her real-life experience on being a breast cancer survivor.

While I felt that the movie was a little slow moving at the beginning as the characters are introduced to the audience, I thought the the script was expertly handled, in particular the handling of how the main character, Cecilia or Sissy as she is fondly called, played by Zoe Tay, undergoes the ordeal of finding out that she has fourth stage Breast Cancer and living through the moments of uncertainty, fear, pain and hope. During the opening moments, a family undergoing what many families go through … a father, Chan Wai Mun, played by Kenny Ho, struggling with his ego and work problems and not being able to spare the time he really should with his wife and children, a teenage son, Howard (Edwin Goh), quiet and withdrawn as he struggles with the teen angst, and a daughter, Mabel (Regene Lim) who while being the source of her mother’s joy, is a little too pampered for her own good. Thinking that I was in for a long 118 minutes, I soon found my eyes glued to the screen as what I thought was a really wonderfully written script captured my attention, not dwelling at all on the pain and suffering as one might expect, but how under the unfortunate circumstances, the family which was beginning to fall apart, pulls together and becomes one again. What the scriptwriters shared was that the thinking behind this was the portrayal of the strength that the suffering person can exhibit and it is often the case that they are the strongest person in the family, as the other family members find themselves at a loss as to what to do or say … and it is around their strength, that everyone pulls together.

The central message of the movie is of course the need for awareness of the disease, particularly amongst the age group of the main character,  women above 40, who are encouraged to go for a mammogram at least once a year, with statistics showing that only 41% of women aged 50-69 reported going for a mammogram within the past two years despite the fact that 54% of breast cancer cases happens with women above 50. In introducing a younger character, Kristy (Christy Yow), a successful model with a high net worth boyfriend, who has a family history of breast cancer, helps to also bring the message across to those younger than 40, who can also be afflicted. Shirley Au Yeung in sharing her experience, reinforced the point by speaking of the need for regular screening to increase one’s chances of early detection and survival. She also talked about another subject which the film aims to put across, the need to involve the family and not being afraid to tell loved ones, a point put across by the dilemma that Kristy, who finds out that she has an early stage of breast cancer, faces in the movie. She struggles with first the fear of having the disease, and than with a positive diagnosis, finding solace in the friendship that she struck with Sissy, not knowing that Sissy herself has the disease. Kristy fears that in removing the affected tissue, she would not just lose her career which depends very much on physical perfection, but also her boyfriend. But happily for her, perhaps with seeing what Sissy was going through, she decides to make the unkindly cut, as we see in the final semi-nude scene involving her. I was struck by the many poignant moments in the movie … particularly the scene which deals with Sissy’s death in a very delicate way. Overall, Love Cuts is certainly a movie that was well worth spending my Sunday afternoon at.


Synopsis:

Forty-something Cecilia (Zoe Tay), better known as Sissy to her friends, is a cheery and vivacious seamstress. Diligent and keenly devoted to her art, Sissy has earned a respectable reputation in the trade for her superb craftsmanship and exquisite style. Her second-storey tailor shop Sissy’s Seamstress at the Textile Centre is modest yet distinctly in a class of its own.

Sissy is recognized as an exceptionally talented seamstress, not only in her community but also garnering clients from far and wide. Moreover, Sissy’s candid, affable and attentive disposition also makes her extremely well-liked and popular.

Wai Mun (Kenny Ho), her husband of many years, is the captain of an acclaimed Chinese restaurant. Although somewhat discontented with life since his migration from Hong Kong to Singapore, he and Sissy are a loving couple and enjoy a blissful marriage. They have a 15-year-old son (Edwin Goh) and a nine-year-old daughter (Regene Lim) who has a very close relationship with Sissy and is a source of great cheer and comfort to her.

In a twist of fate, an unexpected occurrence befalls their seemingly mediocre and uneventful lives. One day, as Sissy feels a hard lump in her left breast. A gush of complex emotions overwhelms her…





Blood and politics at the Cape of Stakes

28 05 2010

In writing a recent post relating to the news of the shift of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, as well as in my recent wanderings around the Tanjong Pagar area, I was reminded me of two events in which the Tanjong Pagar area came can be said to have come under attack. The first, is a fourteenth, or perhaps fifteenth century tale from the Malay Annals, the Sejarah Melayu, a myth which has more recently been retold to our children as the story of how Redhill (Bukit Merah) got its name. The tale was perhaps better known previously as Singapura Dilanggar Todak, which was popularised by the Malay movie of the same name, made during the heydays of Malay cinema in the early 1960s, which was filmed on location at a beautiful coastal village in the north that Singapore has forgotten, one that I have my own fond memories of, Kampung Tanjung Irau. An record of this is provided by Salizah Mahmud in her tribute to her kampung.

Tanjong Pagar or the 'Cape of Stakes" is where one of the busiest posts in the world, the Port of Singapore, developed from., and laid the foundation for the many financial institutions in nearby Shenton Way.

The other attack was one that we are sure did happen, although advocates of opposition representation within the political system, were pinching themselves in disbelieve at what they had then witnessed. It was also one that shook the ruling party, and which took them a while to come to terms with. It was an event that was significant for its impact on the political landscape in Singapore, loosening the tight grip that the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) had on Singapore’s Parliament. That was then 1981, when for some 15 years, the PAP had absolute control of Parliament, holding every seat. With the appointment of the late Mr. C. V. Devan Nair, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Anson (Anson Constituency had occupied the southern part of Tanjong Pagar), to the Presidency of the Republic of Singapore, a by-election was called, in which, much to the astonishment of the PAP whose campaign was led by Mr. Goh Chok Tong, the opposition candidate, the late Mr. Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam from the Workers’ Party (WP), overturned a huge majority in favour of that the PAP had garnered during the 1980 General Elections, to win with 51.9% of the votes. Mr. Jeyaretnam or Jeya as he was referred to, retained his seat in the next General Elections in 1984, before being disqualified as an MP, being jailed and fined for making a false declaration in accounts of the WP. What Jeya did though, was significant enough, and it removed the fear that many in Singapore who harboured disaffection with the political system, had for voting for the opposition. This led the way for other opposition candidates to fare better in the elections that followed, with some managing to increase opposition representation, albeit small, in Parliament, and the event can be said to be the catalyst for the more open style of government that we see today.

Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam at his moment of triumph in Anson in October1981.

Back to the myth of the Singapura Dilanggar Todak, the story is one that involves an attack on Singapore’s inhabitants by todak, which are described, in the recent interpretations of the tale, as swordfish, jumping out of the water. A barricade of men, placed by the ruler, Paduka Sri Maharaja, did little to stem the tide, and resulted only in further loss of lives. Desperate to save the local population, Paduka Sri Maharaja and his advisers took the advice of a young boy who suggested erecting a barricade of banana stems. When the swordfish did attack again, they were caught in the stems allowing the ruler’s men to kill the fish. Feeling threatened by the boys genius, the advisers persuaded the ruler to kill the boy, spilling his blood, as our modern interpretations of the tale would have it, on a hill which we now call Bukit Merah or Redhill.

The building blocks of the stakes of today, a skyscraper, being laid in Tanjong Pagar.

The name Tanjong Pagar, translated into the Cape of Stakes, is thought by some circles to have originated from this myth, the stockade of banana stems being the “stakes” in the name. Some would have it though that it was the kelongs in the area was known to have that gave Tanjong pagar its name, in reference to the fishing stakes of the kelongs, with Munshi Abdullah recording that the first kelong in Singapore was set up around the corner at Tanjong Malang (which I believe is the area where Mount Palmer is). Whatever it was, the name is quite appropriate. Tanjong Pagar is indeed a cape of stakes today … it is now dominated by the stakes of modern Singapore – the skyscrapers that we see in the area today.

Modern "stakes" now dominate the Tanjong Pagar area.








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