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(U.P. $10 per ticket)
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Original title: Aku Mahu Hidup
Directed by: M. Amin
Runtime: 98 min
Language: Malay with English subtitles
Rahimah is forced into prostitution by her stepfather. While she solicits at a bar, it is raided by the police. But Rahimah is able to escape thanks to Nor, a sympathetic policeman who takes her into his home. A romance soon blossoms between them, and they begin to yearn for a new life together. However, Rahimah is haunted by her past, and she lives in fear of her stepfather catching up to them.
Aku Mahu Hidup was made at the end of the studio era and was one of the last films produced by Cathay-Keris before the studio ceased film production in 1972. The film’s screenplay was written by Rajendra Gour, a pioneer of early independent short filmmaking in Singapore. The filmmakers’ adoption of the then-controversial subject matter of prostitution, and their sensitive treatment of how it was perceived at the time, evinces the progressive social consciousness of 1970s Malay cinema. As well, the narrative’s focus on its heroine’s desire for respectability may be read as demonstrating a feminist concern regarding women’s access to civil society. Indeed, this subject would become a recurring theme of Gour’s short films in the 1970s, which frequently addressed the question of women’s role in the family and in society.
The restoration of Aku Mahu Hidup was made possible using the sole surviving 16mm release print from the Asian Film Archive’s Cathay-Keris Malay Classics Collection. The print displayed numerous deep scratches on the emulsion and base of the material. Many of the splices made with tape and cement had deteriorated and had to be repaired to smoothen the process of digitisation. Perforations, broken frames, damages from folding, as well as missing and torn modulations, were also discovered during the process.
To digitally restore the film, 300 hours were spent on restoration work that included scratch removal, stabilising, deflickering, and colour correction. Sound waves from the print were barely visible, and additional audio processing, including noise, click and hum removal, had to be carried out in order to achieve a better auditory experience.
The film was scanned at 4K and restored in 2K resolution by IMAGICA Lab in 2018 and completed in 2019.
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