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.

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7 02 2011
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