Bitesize: Understanding Singapore Cinema
Blogpost by our intern, Kevin Goh.
On the 19th of June, Bee Thiam gave a talk on Understanding Singapore Cinema at the Esplanade under the banner of Bitesize,a year-long programme conducted by industry professionals to showcase different facet of the arts every month.
Bee Thiam spoke about Singapore’s film heritage chronologically from the early 20th century to the films of today,more than a hundred years later. His talk showcased the diversity of Singapore’s cinematic richness, from the cult classic They Call Her...Cleopatra Wong, to the comedic Malay films that had audience in stitches with their timeless brand of humor and camp, to the award-winning 12 Storeys and the documentary Match Made which made audiences introspect on current societal conditions.
After the talk, Bee Thiam held an impromptu session with members of the audience interested to speak with him. The crowd, ranging from a retired journalist to a fresh tertiary student, stayed long after the end of the talk to share their views of the current state of the local film industry.
For me, it was an eye opener that the local film heritage had such connections with big names such as Patrick Tse Yin during our golden film era. The partnerships with Malaya and Hong Kong to tap into the region were a pioneering example that the local filmmakers today are trying to emulate. I enjoyed the talk very much and learnt from both coordinating the event and the taking away of some precious anecdotes of film from days gone by.
"Singapore clearly played a pivotal role in the development of Asian cinema -- and Bee Thiam's thoughtful lecture provided a historical overview of filmmaking in this region. It is not merely a chronology, but places the changing tides of the industry within the context of the political and social history of the country. As with the Archive's premiere of the restored print of "Moon over Malaya" earlier this year and the accompanying curated exhibit, this talk was enlightening and reveals a long tradition of Singaporean cinema. I'm happy the Asian Film Archive exists to preserve that rich tradition for future generations. Bravo to Bee Thiam and his colleagues!"- Amos Ezra Katz, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Asia
Bee Thiam on films that have been lost and are unlikely to be recovered.
A lighthearted moment during the screening of clips.
Bitesize photos courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd.
Use of stills and film clips courtesy of Doris Young (They Call Her...Cleopatra Wong), Family of Ho Kian-ngiap (Moon Over Malaya), Glen Goei (Forever Fever, The Blue Mansion), J Team Productions (Money No Enough), Jacen Tan and hosaywood.com (Zo Hee), James Leong and Lynn Lee (Passabe), Lian Pek (Mad About English), Mirabelle Ang (Match Made), Raintree Pictures (I Not Stupid), Rajendra Gour (Labour of Love - The Housewife), Shaw Organisation (Seniman Bujang Lapok), Zhao Wei Films (12 Storeys, Be With Me).